Valentino Rossi insists Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix will be the true test of whether Ducati's new chassis and swingarm have delivered genuine progress.
The Italian qualified on the second row for the first time this year, ending the session just seven tenths of a second down on Honda poleman Dani Pedrosa.
In addition to that boost, he also reported an improved feeling the front end and better rear stability, both areas in which Ducati has struggled this season.
Rossi says that while such developments are encouraging, the real test will come in race conditions.
"Today was a quote good practice, my speed was positive at the end because I was not very far from the guys in front," Rossi said.
"The second row is very important for the race but especially the distance from pole is just 0.7s, that is quite good because we try the new chassis, the new swingarm together with the others and it looks like we make an improvement.
"We can modify the position of the front a lot, so the feeling and stability is better. We tried to work to improve the rear stability in corner entry and it looks like we also improve.
"It is too early though, we have to wait for the race. Like Brno [for example], we were not too bad in the first half but in the second the rear started to slide too much.
"We have to see - the problem comes doing 28 laps in a row.
"We have a lot of riders very close from [Cal] Crutchlow, [Stefan] Bradl and [Alvaro] Bautista but also [Ben] Spies. It will be a good battle and we hope to stay with these guys to try and get a good result.
"I am sure that tomorrow other guys will go faster in the warm-up, so we have to do the same to stay with them."
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