After the high of his best ever Ducati finish with second place in the wet French MotoGP, Valentino Rossi was forced to settle for a more sedate seventh place in Sunday's dry Catalan Grand Prix.
Crossing the line 17.6sec from race winner Jorge Lorenzo, Rossi was nevertheless encouraged by his best race lap being 0.556sec from quickest of the day (set by Lorenzo).
“Today went pretty well, and in some ways, it was the best dry race of the year so far: I finished closer to the group in front of me, and the gap in lap times was about half a second, which is the smallest that we've had so far,” said Rossi, who began the race in ninth and held seventh from lap 8 onwards.
“Of course we're still only talking about a seventh-place finish, but nonetheless we reached our current potential in the dry.
“At a certain point in the race, I thought I could catch and pass Bautista, who himself wasn't far from Stoner and the others. Unfortunately, toward the end I lost performance from my rear tyre, which we tend to stress too much since I oversteer [slide the rear] in the corners when the front needs some help.”
Rossi tried a new aluminum swing-arm on Friday, but switched back to the carbon fibre design from Saturday onwards.
The seven time MotoGP champion, who also ran new electronics throughout the weekend, will put further mileage on the development parts during testing at Catalunya (Monday) and Aragon (Wednesday).
“Now we have two days of important testing, and we'll try the aluminium swingarm again, along with some set-up ideas in an effort to gain a bit more front grip, to help the bike to corner better,” said Rossi.
“We hope to take another small step, because the riders who were ahead of me today weren't 'too far' ahead.”
Team manager Vittoriano Guareschi insisted forward progress had been made.
“I'm satisfied with the work we did this weekend, and with the capability of the team, which let us make some real advances in today's race,” he said.
“Following the Mugello test, we wanted to check some things that we had introduced there. The team was prepared to use the new electronics package, whereas the aluminium swingarm will require more testing.
“In today's race, Valentino reduced the gap to the front to about a half-second per lap, which is still significant in absolute terms, but in any case it's a step forward considering how big our disadvantage has been in the dry until now.”
Team-mate Nicky Hayden finished in ninth place.