Sunday's US MotoGP at Laguna Seca provided Valentino Rossi and Ducati with further evidence of how far they remain from the front, and where they need to improve.

Rossi just held off team-mate Nicky Hayden to finish as the top Ducati rider, in sixth position - Marco Simoncelli having crashed ahead of him early in the race.

The seven-time MotoGP champion and former Laguna Seca winner was over 30-seconds from victory and only ranked seventh in terms of best race lap, Rossi's best being 0.847sec slower than winner Casey Stoner.

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Rossi persevered with the GP11.1 this weekend, but his fourth event on the upgraded bike saw him finish twice as far from victory than he'd been in round one of the season, when he was seventh on the GP11 in Qatar (also won by Stoner).

"We worked well this weekend," insisted Rossi, who was reunited with crew chief Jerry Burgess. "We started from a better position than we have in recent races, and I got a good launch on the start and tried to stay with the leaders.

"I did a lap in the mid-'22s, but then I closed the front twice in a row on the bumps in Turn 5 and nearly crashed.

"I still had a tough race after that, because Nicky stayed glued to me and didn't give me a chance to breathe. We obviously don't want to be fighting for sixth place, but we're having some problems at the moment and we have to try and do our best with what we have.

"We're losing too much on corner entry, where I'm very slow because I don't have enough feeling, but Ducati is working and we must stay focused and positive, making progress step by step.

"In the short term, we have to make up those missing tenths in order to stay with the group [fighting for fourth] Spies, Sic and Dovizioso. Then we'll think about the others."

Rossi finished less than a second ahead of Hayden, who was racing the GP11.

"Vale was able to improve over the course of the weekend, and in the race he made the most of the package that's currently available to him," said team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.

Rossi and Hayden will start round eleven at Brno, after the summer break, fifth and seventh in the world championship, with one 2011 podium each.