Valentino Rossi believes that he and Ducati just need to improve their pace in two or three sections of the Estoril track to close in on the MotoGP front-runners.
Having struggled both overall and relative to teammate Nicky Hayden in the first two grands prix of 2012, the Italian arrived in Portugal with renewed optimism after following Hayden's lead on set-up for last weekend's Jerez race.
Rossi says the changes have paid dividends after finishing within one second of Casey Stoner's overall benchmark in second practice, and believes specific improvements in two or three points will lead to further gains.
"The first day was not so bad," Rossi said. "I am not very far from the top, but also in some sections I am very fast and quite close to the top guys. Unfortunately, I lose too much in two or three points and for this reason I am [further away], but now we try to understand why and improve the bike to be fast in the rest of the track.
"[We] continued with the setting from Jerez and the feeling is not so bad; I ride quite close to the limit [and] have good grip in the rear. In the fast section I lose too much, so we just need to understand how I can be faster in those two or three places. For sure the lap times are still not fantastic, but I'm good in the first and third section, the bike is good in braking and stable on the exits, and that's where I am close to the top guys."
Rossi was ninth quickest in practice, two places behind Hayden.