Andrea Dovizioso is confident Honda will catch up with its MotoGP rivals during the season, the Italian conceding the team is currently around half a second off the pace. But despite the gap to the front-running teams, the Honda rider is adamant that the Japanese squad will be starting in better shape than in 2009.
"We start already better than last year," Dovizioso told a news conference ahead of this weekend's season opener in Qatar. "We are four, five tenths behind the fastest riders. It's important to start the season like this because last year we were too far.
"We've changed a lot during the six days of testing, but we are close and I think we have the possibility to improve the bike again. We have a few things to try this weekend. I'm really confident because our situation is much better than last year."
He added: "Everybody knows that the situation at Honda is not the best right now, but I think we have a good chance to improve the bike, to have a much better bike. We will have a lot of work to do during the season but I'm confident about that."
Dovizioso made it clear that fighting for this year's title is out of reach, but he is optimistic Honda will be able to win as the season progresses.
"Our target is this one, to fight for victory," he said. "Now we are not fast enough to fight with Casey and Valentino in this race, I think, but we are not so far. So if our work continues like this we have the possibility to improve.
"I don't know if we have the possibility to close the gap in the first two or three races, but I think during the season we'll have the possibility to fight for victory and this is our target, because last year we were too far. To think of the championship is too big, but we want to fight for victory."