Valentino Rossi was pleased to get back into the top 10 in United States Grand Prix qualifying at Laguna Seca, but said Ducati needs to find more pace before he can make any further progress in the race.
After qualifying between 11th and 16th at each of the last four grands prix, Rossi took seventh place in America on Saturday, having finally begun to get on top of Ducati's new GP11.1 - a 2012 chassis fitted with the current 800cc engine.
Rossi pointed out that while the Laguna result was progress, there was more to do.
"This morning we made a change to the balance that helped me to find more grip with the soft tyre, as well as a feeling that was generally better," he said. "In the afternoon though, with the warmer temperature and the hard tyre, I didn't have the same performance and feeling.
"During the session we were able to change the settings again and make a small step, and when we put on the soft, we did a time that was good enough for the third row. Seventh place actually equals my best qualifying spot of the season. That was our goal, to be able to start further forward than we have lately, but for the race we must improve our pace again with the hard tyres because it's a little too difficult now and the rear is sliding a lot. We're focused and we're working very hard so we'll see tomorrow if we can take another step forward."
His teammate Nicky Hayden switched back to the 2011 bike after trying the GP11.1 in Friday practice, and qualified ninth.
"I was a little faster on the new one yesterday, but even though it has more potential and I like the gearbox, I don't yet have a great feel for where its limit is," Hayden explained. "For now, we prefer to go with what we know."
The American crashed at Turn 9 late in qualifying and felt that had cost him a better position.
"I felt good and was looking forward to going into qualifying mode. I wasn't pushing really hard on the out-lap, but you have to push this bike to load the front, and in Rainey Curve I skipped across the bumps and went down," Hayden said. "It's a shame, because we had a chance to do our best qualifying of the year. I went out on the other bike, but the front tire was 30 laps old.
"The team have worked like dogs switching back and forth between bikes. Now they'll have another long night, but I'll try to make up for it tomorrow."