Andrea Dovizioso is confident he can get Ducati near the front of the grid for MotoGP's 2014 season-opening Qatar Grand Prix this weekend.
After a poor start to pre-season testing, the now Audi-owned squad made encouraging progress through the build-up, controversially switching to Open class status along the way.
Although Dovizioso suspects the race will still prove tough for Ducati, he reckons he can show the team's speed at Losail.
"I am very satisfied with how the winter tests went, because we managed to improve more than we expected," said the Italian, who started fourth in Qatar last year but only qualified in the top six once in the final 13 races of 2013 as Ducati faded.
"Now the GP14 is easier to handle and by making a few changes to the bike, we managed to set some interesting times.
"I'm sure I can be quick over one lap, especially because last year I managed to go well in qualifying.
"Maybe the race will be a bit more difficult than practice, but I think we can be quite competitive at Losail.
"For sure we have reduced the gap to the others we had last year."
Dovizioso's team-mate Cal Crutchlow agreed that Ducati was starting the season in better shape than expected, as he joins the team from Tech 3 Yamaha for 2014.
"I think Qatar is going to be quite good for us," he said.
"The team have been working fantastically hard, and I think we've progressed a lot since I first got on the bike in November.
"I think we will be at a little disadvantage because we never tested there, but we will still be at 100 per cent."
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