Reining double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner heads to this weekend's Qatar season opener favourite to take the first win of the new 1000cc era.

The Repsol Honda rider finished top of the timesheets with the new RC213V in all three 2012 pre-season tests, and has won at Qatar four times from six appearances.

The first of those appearances, Stoner's 2006 MotoGP debut, was on a 990cc Honda and he then took his first premier-class win - on his Ducati debut - in the opening race of the 800cc era in 2007.

"After good pre-season tests in both Sepang and Jerez, we head to Qatar feeling positive, but still have some work to do," said Stoner. "This will be the first time with the new bike on this circuit so we will need to spend some time on the set-up to put ourselves in the best position.

"We've always enjoyed good results at the Losail circuit but this is a new season and there are more competitors contesting for victory this year. I'm excited to get the season started and fight for another World Championship."

Yamaha's former champion and 2011 title runner-up Jorge Lorenzo is again expected to provide Stoner's biggest opposition.

First free practice in Qatar will take place at the Losail Circuit on Thursday evening.

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