Nicky Hayden, the final 990cc MotoGP world champion but winless throughout the 800cc era, will start his tenth grand prix season under the floodlights at Qatar this weekend.
It will also be the American's fourth season at Ducati and, despite being denied valuable winter testing time due to a training injury, Hayden has confidence in this year's new 1000cc GP12 featuring an aluminium frame.
“This is my tenth season in MotoGP, and I'm looking forward to it. I have a really solid team and I think we have a good bike this year,” said Hayden.
“With all the injuries from Valencia and my training incident, preparation obviously hasn't gone exactly how you'd like it to, but Jerez was a good test for me to do a lot of laps at very close to 100 per cent.
“Qatar is pretty unique because we're racing at night, but the truth is, after you get rolling, you don't notice it by about the third of fourth corner.
“It really doesn't change too much with things like lines and bike setup, but as it gets later, you have to be careful with the condensation on the track, especially in Turn 2.”
Hayden led the damp second day at the final Jerez test, then claimed eighth (+1.13sec) on the last day of pre-season preparation.
“I'd like to be going into the first race closer to the front, but hopefully we can do some steps," he said. "I've basically only ridden around by myself on this bike, so it will be nice to get in the race and really see how it stacks up against the others.”
The #69 finished ninth at Qatar last year.
Hayden finished seven points behind team-mate Valentino Rossi last season, in eight overall, having also taken one podium finish.