Despite wining at Qatar for the past three seasons, and comfortably leading all three track sessions during the 2010 event, Casey Stoner insists victory in Sunday's race is not the main thing on his mind.
The Ducati star claimed pole by 0.355sec over world champion Valentino Rossi on Saturday night, with the second Fiat Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo 0.513sec behind.
“It is only the start of a very long season, but it is the perfect start and I'm really pleased,” began the Australian. “This bike needs a little bit more time to set up because of the characteristics of the new engine so we'll see how we go at other tracks but it definitely likes this circuit and the team have done a great job.”
Stoner thought he set his fastest lap on the harder race tyre, but it was later confirmed by Bridgestone that he did actually go a fraction faster on softer rubber in the final two minutes. Dani Pedrosa (seventh) was the only rider in the top ten to set his best lap on the harder rear tyre.
“Unfortunately my gear shifter got stuck coming out of turn two on what I'm sure would have been my fastest lap on a soft tyre so we had to rely on my best lap on a race tyre, which had 16 laps on it,” he said. “That is obviously encouraging for the race but the only objective here is to start the season on the right foot and take some solid points to Japan.”
After lapping fifth fastest on Friday, Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden was disappointed to qualify ninth.
“We made some changes to the front that have definitely helped me out in the fast corners today but we struggled to put everything together for a whole lap,” he explained “I did a couple of 1'56.1s but as hard as we tried we couldn't quite drop into the 55s, even though looking at my ideal lap the potential is definitely there.
“Tomorrow we need to unlock that potential although starting from ninth place, out on the dirt, is not a good place to be - one of the worst, actually. We set our best time on a soft tyre so at least that means we're making progress in that area, which was a target. We still need to improve more tomorrow though.”