Nicky Hayden, 13th on the grid for last year's Qatar MotoGP, continues to relish the extra power of the new 1000cc Ducati GP12, which he took to a competitive fifth in Saturday's qualifying session.
That made the American the leading Ducati rider on a night when team-mate Valentino Rossi could only manage twelfth place, over one-second from Hayden.
“Our goal tonight was to be in the top five, and I'm pleased that we achieved that,” said Hayden, the last world champion of the previous 990cc era. “I did a 56.1 on a hard tyre and to be honest, I thought maybe I could do something really special with the soft, but all things considered, I think we did decently in our first qualifying session.
“We'll see if we can come here and turn it into a result tomorrow night. Tyre life is going to be important, and since we're using up the tyre a lot, we need to work on that. I still struggled a bit with chatter and understeer, especially in the fourth sector, where the corners are flat, but the GP12 is certainly the fastest Ducati I've ever ridden, which could come in handy in the race.
“I think it will be a hard race, but I'm really looking forward to it. There's a big gap to the top two [Lorenzo and Stoner], but we'll try our best to get a good start, get into that second group and fight like dogs to hold on. Hopefully we can leave here with something positive.”
Pramac's Hector Barbera will start eighth on the grid and Cardion AB's Karel Abraham tenth.
The four Ducatis were all in the top six for top speed in qualifying, led by Rossi with 338.1km/h.