Whilst countryman Dani Pedrosa was expected to suffer most, in terms of his physical condition, during the opening night of the 2009 MotoGP season at Qatar on Friday, fellow Spaniard Sete Gibernau seems to be facing fitness problems close to those of the Repsol Honda rider.
Gibernau missed last month's Qatar test after sustaining shoulder ligament damage during training, but returned to set the eighth fastest lap time at the final Jerez test.
However, the high speed nature of the Losail circuit is proving a much tougher prospect and the Grupo Francisco Hernando rider claims he is unable to string consecutive laps together.
The 36-year-old, a double title runner-up, is making his MotoGP return this weekend, after two years of retirement. Gibernau took the last of his nine premier-class wins at Qatar in 2004, but Friday marked his night riding debut.
Gibernau set the 16th fastest lap time out of 18 riders on Friday, 3.542sec behind factory Ducati rider Casey Stoner.
“Physically I didn't feel too great today,” confessed Sete. “This is a much faster circuit than Jerez and making the direction changes at high speed, as well as riding under the lights for the first time, made it difficult for me to get one decent lap in to be honest.
“I'm not very happy but that's only because of my physical condition, nothing else. We've got a good base setting for the bike and now the only thing that's not responding well is my body!
“The results were a lot better at Jerez because of a variety of factors – principally because it is less demanding in the direction changes and we had more time on track. I have to be patient and hopefully I can string a couple of laps together tomorrow, which I didn't manage today.
“Other than that I'm pleased that the team is working well and so is the bike. I've honestly never been in a situation before where halfway around the lap I don't feel I can go on but I'll have to get over it.
“Now the most important thing is to do what we can before the race and have patience because we know this problem won't last forever,” the #59 concluded.
Despite his bleak assessment, Gibernau was one of eight riders (including Stoner) to complete 17 laps, and managed five consecutive fast laps.