Valentino Rossi declared himself pleased with Ducati's improved qualifying pace at Motegi, though he still felt seventh place was little to get excited about.
The result is only the seventh time this year that Rossi has qualified in the top 10. His previous best starting positions of 2011 are sixth at Brno, and seventh at Catalunya and Laguna Seca.
"We're pretty satisfied, although we can't celebrate seventh place," said Rossi.
"Still, I was able to ride the bike a bit better. We improved the setting again this morning, and I was faster in the afternoon. We've changed the weight distribution for Motegi, and now I can ride more naturally, though still not as I would like.
"Our goal was to manage to lap at 1m46.5s, and as we were able to do that, I'd say we worked well."
He is optimistic that the Ducati will be stronger in race trim.
"Our pace with the hard tyre isn't bad," said Rossi. "We're not far from [Ben] Spies and [Marco] Simoncelli. We hope to get a good start, and then we'll see."
Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden qualified 10th - a disappointment after he had started the weekend with third place in Friday morning practice.
"We weren't able to continue from the good start we had yesterday, even though our times aren't too far from the second group," said Hayden.
"With the cooler track, I didn't have the same grip, and I was spinning quite a lot on the edge of the tyre.
"This afternoon, we also picked up some chatter that I hadn't experienced all weekend, which made it really difficult to go fast.
"We improved compared to yesterday, but not as much as we should have. We haven't made a lot of changes to the bike, as we tried to keep it pretty simple and just chip away."