After joining fellow title contenders Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa in sitting out the rain-interrupted opening night at the Qatar test, Casey Stoner got back on track - and back on top of the timesheets - on Monday.
Due to cold, windy and dusty conditions, Stoner's best Monday lap was two seconds slower than he'd managed on his way to victory in the 2008 season opener - but still a substantial 0.6sec clear of nearest rival Rossi.
Ducati has a new swingarm and electronics for the Desmosedici GP9 at Qatar, but Stoner only tried the swingarm at the very end of the session and will wait until tomorrow night before making a full evaluation.
Although fastest at last month's Sepang test, Stoner had struggled to last more than a handful of laps in Malaysia due to pain from his left wrist, following bone graft surgery at the end of last season.
Fortunately, the wrist proved less troublesome at Qatar, and the 2007 world champion was feeling 'hopeful' after his 37 laps.
“We have worked well and we've made progress with the set-up of the GP9 so it has been a positive day despite the difficult track conditions,” said Stoner. “Pretty much the same goes for the wrist - it's obviously still not 100% yet but it is better than Malaysia and better than I was expecting for this test, so it's looking hopeful from that point of view too. In general I am satisfied.”
Team-mate Nicky Hayden, who had to start virtually from scratch with set-up after a rain-hit first day - when he was fastest of the riders that chose to test - finished the second night in ninth position, nearly 1.5sec from Stoner.
“The way the day started out I didn't even expect to be riding tonight. The wind was so strong but luckily it turned and we were able to start working seriously on the set-up, adapting the bike to this circuit because the conditions were so strange yesterday that we didn't gather any useful data,” explained the 2006 world champion, who completed 54 laps. “Things are going better than Malaysia, my feeling is improved but there is obviously still a lot of work to do.”