Mika Kallio hopes he can stay among the frontrunners at Misano after a promising start to what is scheduled to be his final race with the works Ducati team.
With Casey Stoner due to return at Estoril, the San Marino Grand Prix is Kallio's last chance to impress the factory squad. In his two races for the team so far he has crashed at Brno and finished eighth at Indianapolis, but he believes he is in better shape this weekend after taking seventh in Friday practice.
"There have been a couple of occasions this season when we have been in this position on the opening day and obviously I'm happy to be here again today," said the Finn. "I said at Brno and Indy that I wasn't feeling confident for some reason but here I felt a lot better from the first run.
"We set the bike up a little bit differently from the start and it was a step forward, which allowed me to push harder. We're back to the level we were at before and now we need to build on it."
He admitted there was a lot more performance to come if he could get to grips with some parts of the track.
"My feeling with the front is still not as good as I would like, especially in the first section, where I was second slowest," said Kallio.
"I'm losing more than half a second in that sector alone so if we can improve the bike through those slow corners we can make up a lot of ground. We didn't manage to fix it today so that is our target for tomorrow."
Kallio's teammate Nicky Hayden was also frustrated by his speed in one of the track's four sectors after taking 10th.
"The bike is working well in some sections of the track; in T2 I'm fourth and in T4 I'm third but T1 isn't very good and T3 ain't good at all - I'm third last and that won't get it," he said.
"So we certainly need to understand what's going on over there in the fast rights and also improve our top speed a bit but we got a good direction and my feeling for both the softer and harder tires is quite good." But the American, who took a breakthrough third place on home ground a week ago, was satisfied with the start to his Misano weekend overall.
"It wasn't a bad first day actually," said Hayden. "I mean, the position doesn't look good but the reality is that we're in the thick of the second group.
"The beginning was quite a struggle but we had a different setup on the other bike, which immediately felt better in terms of turning and grip.
"We made progress from there basically but on my last lap, my fast one, I had to make a pass in T3 that cost me a couple of tenths. If it wasn't for that, overall I think I would have been much higher up the order."