Valentino Rossi may not have been able to repeat his 11th to 1st charge in the 2007 Dutch TT, but the Italian's first race on the new Desmosedici GP11.1 did see The Doctor climb from 11th to 4th at Assen on Saturday.

After struggling in qualifying with the new GP11.1 - which combines this year's 800cc engine with next year's (1000cc) chassis and a new seamless transmission gearbox - set-up changes produced a 'big improvement' for the race.

The seven-time MotoGP champion rose to fifth by the end of lap one, then passed Cal Crutchlow on lap 5 of 26. Rossi finished just three-seconds behind Andrea Dovizioso, but over 30-seconds from Ben Spies and victory.

"We're pretty satisfied with this result because compared to practice, we made a big improvement in the race," said Rossi.

"It would have been nice had we found the right direction more quickly, but this is a new bike that we're still learning to work with, so obviously it takes some experience to get it right.

"In the end, we managed to find a setup that allowed me to ride pretty well but, not having tried it before, I approached the first laps very carefully. To be honest, we were also a little unlucky, because the rain during the warm-up prevented us from trying the changes.

"Anyway, the weekend was positive overall, because we got confirmation that this bike is better in many ways, especially with regard to the rear end, which is now much more stable.

"On the other hand, we also know that we must keep working because we still have a gap to the competition to make up. It's not as big as the time we lost today in terms of seconds, but it's still there.

"Still, we're all trying really hard, and we must continue to do so."

Rossi and Ducati's biggest race of year, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello - where the #46 broke his leg last year - takes place next weekend. Rossi has already tested the 1000cc Ducati at Mugello, which has been resurfaced for this season's race.

Team-mate Nicky Hayden was still using the standard GP11 motorcycle, albeit with a name chassis, which he took to his best dry finish of the season. The American finished 13 seconds from Rossi in fifth.

"Conditions have been all over the place all weekend, and the race wasn't any different. We went out with a rain setup, but we saw that it was drying quickly and changed to a complete dry setup on the grid" said Hayden. "There were a couple of little wet patches early on, but it was okay.

"We made a small change for the race, but nothing big. The first lap or two, the tyres heated up and I felt really good. Then I made a couple of early mistakes. I touched a white line and also pushed the front once and had to go straight at the chicane.

"Colin passed me, and then I managed to drag him back. I can't celebrate fifth place too much, but it's my best dry result of the year and puts us fifth in the points. Congratulations to Ben, who's a fellow American. I wish it was me, but he and his team deserve it."

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