Andrea Dovizioso qualified fourth on the grid for Sunday's Japanese MotoGP, but it was his pace in final practice that has given the Ducati rider confidence for the race.
The Italian was just 0.035s slower than session leader Marc Marquez in FP4 - with Suzuki's Aleix Espargaro and Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo squeezed between them!
"I'm really happy because it was a very good lap time and we did everything we could," Dovizioso said after qualifying. "Fourth place is OK for me, because on this circuit it's not much of a disadvantage to start from row two.
"In FP4 we always kept up a good pace, but it's not easy to understand the real pace of the competitors. We will only see in the race who has worked the best. Our speed over the lap is in line with the quickest guys and the only question mark is keeping the pace for 24 laps.”
Temporary team-mate Hector Barbera qualified eighth for his factory Ducati debut at Motegi.
The Spaniard, promoted from the Avintia team to replace the injured Andrea Iannone this weekend, has set his sights on using the 2016 Desmosedici to beat his previous high of fifth.
Barbera qualified one-second from pole sitter Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and a respectable 0.686s from Dovizioso.
“Today was a positive day and I felt much better than yesterday on the Desmosedici GP. I only need to put in a lot more mileage on the bike to get used to its characteristics. In FP4 we only worked with used tyres and I started to get to know the bike better: we made a big step forward, but in Q2 I was unable to put together a perfect lap.
"In any case I'm eighth on the grid and I start from the third row, but it's a position from where you can do a good race. For tomorrow I think we can still improve the setup a bit and I'm sure I can also improve my feeling with the bike.”