Former MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, who split the factory Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa at Qatar 2011, has his sights set on going one better in the first race of the new 1000cc era at Losail on Sunday.
Lorenzo was the only Yamaha rider in the top five as he rode the wheels off his 800cc M1 in last year's event.
The Spaniard returns knowing that the 2012 Yamaha is a more competitive package, having set strong lap times in all three winter tests, although Stoner again looks to be the man to beat.
While he has never won a premier-class race at Qatar, Lorenzo has a strong record at the desert track, starting his four MotoGP events from the front row and always finishing on the podium.
“I'm very excited to finally make a race and see how we are compared to our rivals,” said Lorenzo. “Qatar was a good race for us last year but I think this season we have a slightly more competitive bike so I am hoping for good things to happen.
“Because of my hand injury [three rounds from the end of last year, at Phillip Island] it has been a long time since I was in a race so I am really excited for Sunday. I have been training a lot for this season; I'm feeling very good and very happy with the bike as well.”
Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg is eager to see how the new machine shapes up in a race situation.
“I'm really excited to go to Qatar, it's been a longer off season than usual,” said the Dutchman. “We had a great winter test season and we solved a lot of problems from 2011 so I'm curious to see how our package behaves under race conditions.
“Testing is one thing but finishing on a podium is the real test. Jorge is very fit and the M1 is ready to go. Let's clean the track for the first couple of days and then go racing!”
Lorenzo finished runner-up to Stoner last season, with three races wins.