Fresh from his best Ducati finish, Valentino Rossi now heads to the scene of what remains his most competitive race on a Desmosedici this weekend at Catalunya.

Rossi finished last year's Barcelona round in fifth place, but the 7.351sec margin between the Italian and race winner Casey Stoner remains the closest Rossi has been to victory since leaving Yamaha at the end of 2010.

For comparison, The Doctor's Ducati podiums - both at Le Mans - were claimed with a margin of 9.905sec (2012) and 14.564sec (2011) to victory.

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There's no doubt that the wet second place last time out in France was a timely boost for the Italian, but Rossi remains realistic about his present podium chances in the dry.

"Two Sundays ago, we got a nice result because we took advantage of the wet track, a condition in which we know we can be competitive, but we're aware that we must continue improving in normal, dry conditions," said Rossi.

Rossi has won a record nine times at Catalunya, in all three classes.

"The Catalunya circuit has always been one of my favourites, and although it's hard to imagine another podium, we must still do our best to finish with the front riders," he said.

Since Le Mans, Rossi and team-mate Nicky Hayden have taken part in a private test at Mugello to try out the latest Ducati developments.

"Some of the things we tried in the Mugello test last week seemed promising," said Rossi. "It will be interesting to try them on a different track, and with much less time to set the bike up, to see if they're really a small step forward."

Those words suggest Rossi could use some of the new parts - which included an aluminium swing-arm - during the Catalan race weekend.

However engine modifications are among parts likely to be saved for Monday's post-race test due to the strict engine-change limits.

First practice for round five of the 2012 championship takes place at Barcelona on Friday morning.