Nicky Hayden proclaimed himself proud of his battling sixth place in Sunday's Czech MotoGP.
The 2006 world champion has struggled to find form on the factory Ducati GP9 this season and described his second best result of the year as more evidence of progress in the search for bike balance.
"We have higher goals than this but sixth place is my second best result of the season so I have to be satisfied for today," said the American, who finished the race as top Ducati rider in the absence of his sick teammate Casey Stoner. "After the disaster at Donington this has been a respectable weekend for us.
"The team did a great job all weekend getting the front working better for me so we've made progress and that is the most important thing."
Hayden admitted that the race at Brno had been a tough one and that he had been forced to fight hard for his sixth place.
"The race certainly wasn't easy - I lost a couple of positions off the line but had a good first lap and was able to get into that second group," he said. "To be honest from that point I was holding on, going as fast as I had all weekend and when we got up behind Colin [Edwards] I was able to make another pass.
"I could see the group ahead of me and as they made a couple of mistakes I could have maybe got there. I just pushed too hard and ran wide in a couple of places and had to do my best to hold my position. They were breathing all over me during those last couple of laps but I hung on and got sixth. We were only less than four seconds off the podium so we're obviously making some headway.
"I want to thank the team because it's not been an easy time recently but today we have something to be proud of."
Stoner's replacement Mika Kallio ended his debut weekend as a factory Ducati with a frustrating DNF after Marco Melandri made contact with him in the final corner of the penultimate lap, taking both riders out of the race.
The Finn chose to draw positives from his experience racing with the works team and believes there is much more to come following a promising weekend.
"There is still something missing with the front feeling and even though I could stay with the second group I couldn't pass anybody because I don't have that front-end confidence you need to brake late or take a more risky line," he explained. "The proof of that was when De Angelis had his problem and slowed down, I was able to pass him and improve my lap times by half a second to catch Nicky and Edwards.
"Then came the crash with Melandri, who tried to pass me where it was impossible to, so that finally our lines crossed!
"Anyway, it has been an interesting weekend and I think if we can find something that gives me more feel with the front we can make a big step forward."