Dutch TT pole man Andrea Dovizioso feels Valentino Rossi has the strongest pace for Sunday's race at Assen, but the Italian rider is optimistic he can put up a fight at the Cathedral.
Dovizioso topped the times in the damp Q2 session by seven-tenths-of-a-second from Rossi but was also fastest in the dry on Saturday in FP3.
The factory Ducati rider knows he has the speed to set fast laps, but Dovizioso is seeking a little more consistency in the closing stages of the race with his GP16 to enable him to finish strongly.
“I'm so happy how we worked during the weekend because we didn't expect to have this speed. Still, our pace is not like Valentino's, who I think is the fastest in the dry tomorrow,” Dovi said.
“But I think we are very close and this is really good, especially after a bad weekend like we have in Barcelona.
“I'm happy with our speed but still we need a little bit of the consistency to really fight until the end in the race. It's very important to have the speed and work in the small details for the race.”
Dovizioso altered his qualifying strategy after initially only planning one time attack and ultimately it paid off as he exited pit lane behind Rossi.
“Our strategy was to just make one exit, but after two laps I decided to change the strategy, also because I did a good lap time. With just one lap possible in the last run it was better to try to change the rear tyre and it worked,” he said.
“I was also lucky to exit behind Valentino and it was quite easy to do the lap time because I also had a reference.”
FP4 saw a number of fallers in the challenging conditions at Assen but Dovizioso said the session served as an important yardstick ahead of final qualifying.
“It was very difficult for everybody today, especially because before the qualifying in FP4 there were a lot of crashes; I almost crashed and it was very difficult to manage the front,” Dovizioso said.
“But that practice was very important to prepare for the qualifying for us and we changed the set-up. The conditions were really different in the qualifying and apart from the spin we have in the wet it was very important to understand quickly the changes in the track, because it became dry very quick.”
The MotoGP riders have little experience of riding with the Michelin tyres in the wet and Dovi admitted there were positives and negatives, highlighting rear grip as particularly impressive.
“[There are] positive and negatives. For example, today the grip on the rear was so good but it was difficult to manage the front, so like always when there is a change of the rules you have to manage the situation,” he said.
“FP4 showed the reality of the grip with the rear and we changed the set-up from that and also I changed a little bit the way I ride the bike, when I understood the different grip balance from the front to the rear.”
Dovizioso will be making the fourth pole start of his career in the premier class and his third for Ducati, the most recent of which was in Qatar last season.