Nicky Hayden pulled no punches as his hopes of a second successive home podium in American faded in Laguna Seca.
The Kentucky rider, who finished third in last August’s Indianapolis clash, will start the 32-lap race at Laguna Seca from a lowly seventh on the grid.
The 2006 world champion posted a best time of 1.21.920 to finish 0.232s adrift of former Repsol Honda team-mate Valentino Rossi.
But Hayden, who has finished outside of the top six in the last three races, said: “It was about like yesterday and I’m just not fast enough. We made really no steps this morning because we went backwards on some stuff.
"But this afternoon the team did a good job and we were quite a bit faster, but so was everybody else. I’m only three-tenths off front row, but here that’s a lot and the gap to the front here at Laguna, my home race, is too much. So I’m not happy about it, but we're not going home yet,
Hayden said his big issue was getting his factory Ducati GP20 to turn at the first corner.
“Turn one is the big issue for me. I'm losing a lot of time in turn one. I cannot feel the front through there and I get a lot of moving. When I lean it over I get spinning in the rear while I'm still wide open and it starts upsetting the bike. That's a big problem for me.”