Valentino Rossi is aiming to continue the momentum from his first Ducati MotoGP podium on his return to one of his favourite events - the Catalan Grand Prix.

Rossi missed last year's race due to his broken leg, but claimed one of his most famous victories with a stunning last-turn pass on Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in 2009 - one of six wins at the track.

"The Catalan Grand Prix is one of the nicest of the season, for a number of reasons: Barcelona is a beautiful city, the track is really nice - probably my second-favourite after Mugello - and finally, as is always the case at Spanish races, the grandstands are filled with enthusiastic fans," said seven time MotoGP champion Rossi.

"I'm really happy to return to the track, since I had to watch the race from my house last year. I've always been quite strong at the track, so I have many nice memories, the most recent of which is the 2009 win after a great battle with Lorenzo," he admitted.

Rossi's first Desmosedici podium, a third place at Le Mans, came after Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli collided ahead of him. Rossi admits there is plenty of work still to be done to the GP11.

"We're very motivated and we're working really hard on the bike; step-by-step, we can see that we're making progress. We know there's still a lot of work to be done, but we need to keep trying to get closer to the front," said Rossi, who was back on the 2012 Ducati during a recent test at Mugello.

"The updates that we've made to the GP11 have enabled us to take a first step forward, but our goal is obviously to continue improving, because we still have a gap to recover since the bar has been raised quite a bit compared to last year," added team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.

"Valentino is really beginning to feel better physically, and because of that, the feedback that he's able to give us regarding the development is increasingly precise. We're working under incredibly short deadlines, both in the factory and on the track, but we're doing our best to provide our riders with a bike that's increasingly competitive."

Team-mate Nicky Hayden made the Catalunya podium in 2006, on his way to the MotoGP title.

"Any race in Spain is huge, and Catalunya is no exception," said Hayden. "It's a good track. I made the podium there in 2006, although I haven't gotten the results I'd like there in recent years, especially last season. I'm looking forward to it. The two weeks off have been okay, but I enjoy this part of the season, with back-to-back races.

"The next month and a half is going to be busy, because this is when the season really gets going. Even though our end result wasn't a lot better in Le Mans, I definitely think we were closer to the front. Ducati hasn't stopped working over the last couple of weeks, and we'll see at Barcelona if we can keep going on the right path."

Rossi starts round five holding fifth in the championship, with Hayden - who also has one 2011 podium to his credit - in sixth.