Mika Kallio began his final scheduled event of the season as a factory Ducati rider by leading the Desmosedici challenge, in seventh, during Friday free practice for the factory's second home event at Misano.
The young Finn, who has claimed a DNF and eighth during his two races so far with the official team, put his strong start down to improved front end confidence.
"There have been a couple of occasions this season when we have been in this position on the opening day and obviously I'm happy to be here again today,” said Kallio. “I said at Brno and Indy that I wasn't feeling confident for some reason but here I felt a lot better from the first run.
“We set the bike up a little bit differently from the start and it was a step forward, which allowed me to push harder. We're back to the level we were at before and now we need to build on it.
“My feeling with the front is still not as good as I would like, especially in the first section, where I was second slowest. I'm losing more than half a second in that sector alone so if we can improve the bike through those slow corners we can make up a lot of ground. We didn't manage to fix it today so that is our target for tomorrow,” he concluded.
Team-mate Nicky Hayden, who signed a one-year extension to his deal with Ducati yesterday, was 0.189sec slower in tenth.
“It wasn't a bad first day actually. I mean, the position doesn't look good but the reality is that we're in the thick of the second group,” said Hayden, who stood on the podium for the first time this season in last weekend's Indianapolis Grand Prix. “The beginning was quite a struggle but we had a different set-up on the other bike, which immediately felt better in terms of turning and grip. We made progress from there basically but on my last lap, my fast one, I had to make a pass in T3 that cost me a couple of tenths. If it wasn't for that, overall I think I would have been much higher up the order.
“The bike is working well in some sections of the track; in T2 I'm fourth and in T4 I'm third but T1 isn't very good and T3 ain't good at all - I'm third last and that won't get it. So we certainly need to understand what's going on over there in the fast rights and also improve our top speed a bit but we got a good direction and my feeling for both the softer and harder tyres is quite good. We'll see if we can take another step tomorrow but this is not a bad start,” he insisted.
Hayden was within 0.3sec of fifth place Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda).