Nicky Hayden got the better of new team-mate Mika Kallio to lead the Ducati challenge during qualifying for Sunday's Czech Republic Grand Prix.
Kallio caused a stir by outpacing Hayden and claiming seventh place during his very first session on a factory Desmosedici, in Friday practice at Brno, and eighth in the Saturday morning session was also ahead of the American.
But Hayden was closing the gap and moved ahead of Kallio in the closing stages of qualifying, just as the young Finn fell from his GP9. Hayden will start Sunday's race in eighth place with Kallio tenth.
“I was hoping to go faster than that but qualifying has been a weak point for us this year and I always seem to struggle to make a significant improvement when everybody else is pushing for times right at the end,” said Nicky. “Considering that I'm pleased that I was able to keep improving right to the end and hang on to what is a decent position for us compared to a lot of our qualifying results so far this season.
“The team have done a good job here. We've made some big changes to the geometry here and we're improving. It isn't quite showing in the lap time yet but we keep getting faster and if we can take another step forward tomorrow we can have a good race. The top three are going so quick this weekend it's unbelievable but nonetheless we've done a good job so far and we're looking to make more improvements in the warm-up and in the race,” he added.
Kallio claimed responsibility for his fall, which saw him lose the front of his GP9 – which eventually came to rest on top of a tyre wall.
"Up until the crash things were going really well and without it I think we could have qualified at least in seventh place, which we were only two tenths off,” claimed the MotoGP rookie. “I take the blame for the crash but I didn't really do anything different and the front washed away.
“We've been experimenting with different suspension angles on the two bikes and like yesterday they both have their strengths and weaknesses that we need to look at tonight and make some decisions about. We improved the situation with the rear grip on the left side but it seems we are still struggling to get heat into the tyre so this also needs more work in the warm-up.
“Anyway, my grid position is not what we hoped for but it's not bad and I equalled my best lap today on a rear tyre with 20 laps on it, so the signs are promising for the race tomorrow. I'm excited and really looking forward to the race."
Kallio has taken a best finish of eighth so far this season, riding for the satellite Pramac Ducati team. Hayden's best is fifth.