When Andrea Dovizioso joined Ducati in 2013, it was a team on the ropes.

The failure to win a race with Valentino Rossi had left the Italian factory floundering for direction amid a series of managerial and technical changes.

Dovizioso was parachuted into the eye of that storm to take over the seat abandoned by Rossi, signing on the back of six rostrums for Tech3 Yamaha the previous season.

But Dovi was left in no doubt about the size of the task ahead in rebuilding Ducati when the factory team went on to suffer what remains its only podium-less season in MotoGP.

"Thinking about 2013 my first year in Ducati and now, there is a big difference," Dovizioso smiled. "This takes time - I’m quite old now! - but the condition improved together step-by-step.

"We struggled a lot at the beginning, but it’s normal. At that time, we were too far behind. We had to understand what we can change. It's very difficult when you have to change something inside of the factory. This happened. We are very happy about that. A lot of change."

One of the major changes was the appointment of Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna from Aprilia who, together with the work of the riders and engineers, helped turn a once maligned machine into the class of the field.

Dovizioso won six races on his way to title runner-up in 2017, Ducati's best performance since Casey Stoner's crown a decade earlier.

The Italian is currently fighting to repeat that championship position this year, while Ducati has already won six races (split equally between Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo) so far this season, including the last three in a row. Few would be surprised if it becomes four in a row on Sunday.

"I’m so proud to be part of this project from the beginning," Dovizioso said.

"I came in Ducati one year before Gigi, so to be in this situation now, in this moment is very special for me. Not just about the speed we have and what we can achieve, but is about being part of a strong group where we really struggled a lot but our goal was clear.

"Now we are in this situation. So I'm really happy to be in this group."

Dovizioso was speaking after qualifying a close second to team-mate Lorenzo at Aragon, after being forced to pass Alvaro Bautista on his final lap.

"I was able to find a good window in the traffic, but unfortunately Alvaro didn’t make a really good lap time. I caught him and had to find a way to overtake him. I did it in turn 12, but I had to make a strange braking. I almost crashed because everybody was on the limit and I lost time.

"Anyway, I’m really happy with the feeling I have with the bike. Apart from the qualifying, the pace for the race is really good. I’m happier than what I can expect before the weekend.

"During the practice we improve a little bit - not the speed, but the way I can save the tyre. I think it will be the key for the race tomorrow for everybody because everybody is struggling with the consumption of the rear tyre.

"It will be very hot, so the strategy will be very, very important tomorrow."

Dovizioso is 67 points behind championship leader Marc Marquez (who qualified third) and three points in front of Valentino Rossi, who will start just 18th for Yamaha.

Lorenzo, who will join Repsol Honda next season, is 24 points from Dovizioso after falling in Misano.