An accurate weather forecast meant that Ten Kate Honda's Jonathan Rea knew he had to make his first laps count going into Friday's first qualifying session at Assen.

With rain spots already hitting his visor the Ulsterman put in a 'banker' lap for what turned out to be fifth position.

"It was quite a weird session this afternoon, to be honest," sad Rea. "My guys in the pitbox were monitoring the weather really closely and we could see on the radar that bang on 3.30 there was going to be a shower, with more to follow.

"So we knew that the first lap was going to be crucial and went out with the softer tyre but already on the first lap I got some spray on my visor. So you could say I took a slightly more conservative approach to getting a banker in, and even then it was getting heavier."

While Rea played it relatively safe, session leaders Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) effectively matched the best dry morning time - much to Rea's surprise.

"How the other guys went the same speed as they did in the first session is beyond me - I wasn't wanting to take too many risks," said Rea, a former Assen winner.

In terms of set-up, Rea still has improvements to make in both the dry and wet.

"In the free practice we made some OK steps with the bike, which is completely different to the race set-up we had here last year. I'm still lacking a little bit of front-end feel but I think it's the right way to go and we're slowly getting it sorted.

"So, this afternoon was a bit of a wasted session - I was the only guy to go out on intermediate tyres and the feeling from them wasn't that good to be honest. If it's like this again tomorrow, I'll take to opportunity to go out and build my speed on them because it looks like Sunday might be the same conditions that we had today."

While Rea is guaranteed a place in Saturday afternoon's Superpole session, should poor weather spoil second qualifying, team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama must hope for better conditions in order to make the cut. The Japanese was left 21st on Friday.

"We didn't start so well this morning with a technical problem so we missed the beginning of this morning's session," he explained. "The team fixed the problem very quickly so I was able to go out for the second half of the free practice. We wanted to try some things but we didn't have enough time, which was a pity.

"We were going to re-confirm this afternoon but the rain came so it wasn't possible. We knew the rain was coming but wanted to check the setting with the harder tyre - I pushed as hard as I could on that tyre but it was quite difficult to get the feeling.

"So, it's been a pity to lose the opportunity to check things this morning and to make a good lap time this afternoon. We have another qualifying session tomorrow so I really hope it will be dry for that."