When it was revealed that Ducati would compete in MotoGP with the Open class benefits in 2014, many predicted a flood of pole positions due to the softer rear tyre.

Ducati riders have gone on to claim eight front row starts - four each for Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone - but it took until round 15, at Motegi in Japan on Saturday, for Dovizioso to hand the Italian manufacturer its first pole since Casey Stoner's final 'red' appearance at Valencia 2010.

Dovizioso duly used the extra-soft rear not available to the Honda and Yamaha riders to set a new circuit record, beating Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) by just 0.050s while Dani Pedrosa (Honda) hung onto third despite a late fall.

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"This pole position is something special," smiled Dovizioso. "It feels really good because we started last year quite far behind and struggled all year. But this year we've made a step, we've worked really hard together and now we've arrived very close to the fastest riders. It's a really nice feeling to be in this situation now. We know it is not enough but it's really good."

The Italian added: "We started this weekend well from Free Practice 1 and every practice we've been near the top. Not only the lap time but especially the pace. During the first qualifying run I had a really good feeling to be aggressive for the second run. Then I got in a really good and fast lap time for pole.

"We know the level of the competitors and it will be difficult to fight for the podium tomorrow, but not impossible. We are closer than the other weekends and we start from pole position so of course we'll try."

While a softer grade of rear tyre selection has at times been a disadvantage for Ducati in race situations - since they are not able to run the harder Bridgestone option - Sunday's grand prix should see all frontrunners on the same soft rear.

As well as the chance of a softer tyre, the Open class benefits include four litres of extra race fuel, plus extra engine changes and testing opportunities.

Ducati's clever if controversial decision to try and switch from the Factory to Open class - which forced the creation of a third 'Factory with Open class concessions' category - was instigated by new general manager Gigi Dall'Igna. The 'logical' approach of the former Aprilia Racing boss has been praised by Dovizioso this season.

"Many things have changed, firstly inside Ducati at home," he said of Dall'Igna's influence. "That was the first thing that had to be changed. Like I always say. I like how Gigi works because he is really logical. He doesn't bring something special, just important experience and everybody can speak with him easily.

"He had many things to do, maybe too much, but he was able to manage and step-by-step we have improved. Ducati had the possibility to make a good bike and if you work in a logical way like he is working and you have good engineers and good riders to make the right suggestions we can arrive where we are now."

The Open benefits are technically available for any Factory manufacturer which did not win in 2013 (only Ducati) plus any new manufacturers, meaning Suzuki and Aprilia in 2015.

But in order to get the agreement of Honda and Yamaha, some performance limits were put in place.

Two litres of race fuel will be removed if a race win, two second places or three third places are achieved in dry conditions. Of Ducati's three rostrums so far - two for Dovizioso and one for team-mate Cal Crutchlow - only one has been in the dry.

If Ducati/Aprilia/Suzuki then wins three races before the end of next year its riders will lose use of the softer Open class tyre allocation. The engine and testing rules are not linked to results and will remain until the single ECU era begins in 2016.

The sweetener for agreeing to those limits was that Ducati was allowed to keep its own bespoke ECU software, rather than run the control version used by the rest of the Open class (who have no results-based limits).

"I don't think the competitors will have a problem," Dovizioso said of the Ducati fuel advantage over the Honda and Yamaha riders for tomorrow's race. "Maybe they are on the limit. But usually in FP4 everybody is riding with the same power settings as for the race, so we have already seen the pace."

If Dovizioso, fifth in the championship, can claim a third podium this year he will be Ducati's most successful rider since 2007 world champion Stoner.

However critics will point out that Ducati's true progress will not be known until they go head-to-head with Honda and Yamaha under the exact same technical rules.

The 2015 Desmosedici will be the first Ducati fully designed by Dall'Igna.