Nicky Hayden says he took encouragement from the steady improvement he saw in his times throughout qualifying for the Czech MotoGP as the American placed eighth on the grid for Sunday's race at Brno.
Hayden, who has struggled to get on terms with the GP9 this season, ended the day fastest of the Ducati riders.
But while Casey Stoner's absence meant that was more a likely occurrence, Hayden believes he is making genuine progress in understanding the Italian bike.
"I was hoping to go faster than that but qualifying has been a weak point for us this year and I always seem to struggle to make a significant improvement when everybody else is pushing for times right at the end," he said. "Considering that I'm pleased that I was able to keep improving right to the end and hang on to what is a decent position for us compared to a lot of our qualifying results so far this season.
"We've made some big changes to the geometry here and we're improving. It isn't quite showing in the lap time yet but we keep getting faster and if we can take another step forward tomorrow we can have a good race.
"The top three are going so quick this weekend it's unbelievable but nonetheless we've done a good job so far and we're looking to make more improvements in the warm-up and in the race."