Valentino Rossi will start Sunday's Le Mans MotoGP race from just ninth place - the same starting position as Estoril and Qatar (he was twelfth on the grid at Jerez) - but insisted the qualifying session went better than it looked.

"Naturally, we're not happy with our position: it's not good, because I had hoped to start from the second row. I'm pleased with the way we worked, though, as well as with how I rode, because I was finally able to ride well. We solved some problems, and we understood that other aspects of the setup weren't going in the right direction, so we changed them.

"I think this was our best qualifying session since I've been at Ducati, because with just a few minutes left, I was inside sixth place. Unfortunately, when the moment to use the softer tyre comes, we don't take a big enough step, so tomorrow I'll have to start from the third row, behind some riders who had a slower pace. We have a couple more ideas to try in the warm-up though, and if they work, we can do better in the race.

Rossi has taken a best finish of fifth from his first three races for Ducati, with the factory's only 2011 podium coming from team-mate Nicky Hayden in the wet of Jerez. The American qualified tenth at Le Mans.

"This morning wasn't bad, but I hoped for more in qualifying, for sure," he said. "The bike was working quite well at the pace I've been running, but when I tried to cut those last couple of tenths, it was moving around a lot.

"It's unfortunate after being fourth yesterday and fifth this morning. I was hoping to be up a few spots, but I don't really have a lot of excuses. I had a couple of good, clear laps, but I just didn't put down the lap time I needed to. I'm starting tenth, and as bad as that sounds, it's my best grid spot of the year. Anyway, tomorrow is what counts."