The good news for Valentino Rossi is that he will start from his best-ever Ducati qualifying position, at Catalunya on Sunday - the bad news is that he's still only seventh on the grid.

The seven time MotoGP champion just pipped team-mate Nicky Hayden to be the top Desmosedici rider, but was a sizable 0.810sec behind countryman Marco Simoncelli (Honda) and admitted he should have done better.

"This afternoon went a little better, although I can't be happy with the third row," said Rossi. "Crutchlow took the second row from us in the end, but it was my fault because if had ridden better on my final lap, I could have cut a couple of tenths from my time, which would have put me in sixth.

"Anyway, we improved the bike's settings. The three free-practice sessions were very difficult, and I even had a fall this morning, but fortunately I didn't hurt myself.

"We found the key to the problem in qualifying though, and we made some setup changes that helped us to get a little closer to the front--not close enough of course, but our pace with hard tyres isn't bad."

Both Rossi and Hayden used the new, smoother, Ducati engine - first tried at the Estoril post-race test - during qualifying.

"We also decided to use the updated engine, which I prefer, as the bike is more controllable on acceleration," said Rossi.

Rossi took his first Ducati podium from ninth on the grid, last time at Le Mans.

Hayden also achieved his best qualifying of the season on Saturday.

"I know eighth isn't great, but it's my best qualifying session of the year. At least we're starting a little closer to the front, which is a good sign," said the American. "The second row was right there in front of us--a real possibility today.

"No excuses, though; I had clear laps but just couldn't quite get down to the time I needed. It's obviously not a perfect situation for the race, but I would say we're a little bit closer than we have been.

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow. It's going to be tough, but hopefully I can get a good start and get in there and mix it up."

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