Jorge Lorenzo is 'definitely' aiming for a podium finish in the Qatar MotoGP season opener on April 12, although the end of qualifying tyres may make a repeat of his stunning 2008 run of poles more difficult.
The Fiat Yamaha rider entered MotoGP in spectacular style last season, taking three poles and three podiums - including one win - from the first three rounds. Accidents and injuries followed, but the double 250cc world champion recovered to finish the season fourth in the championship.
The new one-tyre rule meant a winter switch to Bridgestones, but Lorenzo has steadily increased his pace and understanding of the Japanese rubber, culminating in being fastest of all at Jerez on Saturday and then fourth in Sunday's rain interrupted 'qualifying' session - which effectively marked the end of the pre-season action.
“[Saturday] was good but today it was a lot colder and I found it harder to be as fast because the conditions were quite different,” explained the Spaniard, who took four poles last season. “I think that the qualifying this year is going to be quite hard without the special tyres, which always suited my riding style quite well. I was quite a specialist with the qualifying tyres and now I don't have that advantage, so I have to learn to adapt.”
The loss of special qualifying tyres means that most riders will instead turn to the softer of the two Bridgestone race tyre compounds for 2009 qualifying.
“My riding style is better with the harder Bridgestone tyre and so it will be quite difficult for me to be as good in the qualifying sessions this year I think!” Jorge claimed. “Today Stoner was so fast with the soft tyre and I didn't have a chance to catch him.
“Anyway, the important thing is that I have felt really good on both days here, I have been consistently fast and I am definitely prepared to fight for the podium at the first race in Qatar,” he declared.
“Our race pace is good, but obviously we still need to keep working to keep up with Casey [Stoner], because he is very fast,” said team manager Daniele Romagnoli. “Next time it will be the real thing in Qatar, where we had a very good test, and we're confident that Jorge can be at the top.”