Andrea Dovizioso carried his top Honda winter test form into the first MotoGP round of 2010, claiming fourth place in Friday practice for the Qatar night race.
The Italian and his Repsol Honda crew started working from the base machine settings they established at the test held at this circuit three weeks ago and, in lower grip conditions, he was able to set a laptime of 1min 56.698sec, which was 1.198s behind the fastest time set by Ducati's Casey Stoner.
Dovizioso's factory RC212V was quickest through the Losail speed trap tonight at 319.1kmh (198.2mph), and the 24-year-old also felt a slight improvement with a new swingarm.
“I'm confident after this first session, and I think we can build on this,” he said. “We started with the same base set-up from the test here, but actually the track conditions were different and there was less grip tonight.
“We also discovered some small issues that didn't allow us to use all the potential of the bike so I'm sure we can get quicker. We tried a slightly modified swingarm tonight and we felt a small improvement with it, so we'll use that tomorrow as well.
“Stoner's lap time is very fast and our gap to the front is still big but anyway we need to analyse what we've learned from this session and use it to move further forward in tomorrow's sessions. Our target for tomorrow is to lap in the low 1m 56s.”
A low 1min 56sec was the pace of Fiat Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, in second and third.
Meanwhile, Dovizioso's struggling team-mate Dani Pedrosa was left to start the season in eleventh place. The Spaniard was 1.6sec from Stoner and four tenths slower than Dovi.
“Well, we made some progress in this session and there are some modifications that we tried that improved the feeling a little bit,” he said. “We should be able to continue with that through the weekend, though today we had a couple of issues with the machine which meant we lost some testing time and didn't make as much progress as we could have done.
“My finishing position isn't great today but the team is pushing very hard and we'll continue that way. We remain optimistic for the two practice sessions tomorrow. Our lap times today were about the same as the test here three weeks ago so we'll be looking to make a big improvement tomorrow and confirm the direction we're going in.”