Andrea Dovizioso will start his first race as a Ducati MotoGP rider unsure what to expect over race distance in Sunday's Qatar night race.
Dovizioso, signed to replace departing superstar Valentino Rossi during what is billed by Ducati as 'something of a building year', did not complete a race simulation in testing but was pleasantly surprised by his 'qualifying' pace on new tyres.
The Italian progressed from 2.2s behind the best lap time at the first official 2013 test to 0.8s adrift during the final Jerez outing. In terms of past Losail success, Dovizioso finished fourth on his MotoGP debut at Losail in 2008, stood on the podium in 2010 and was fifth on his M1 debut for Tech 3 last year.
“Losail is a good track for me, as I've always had good races there, and I think that the Ducati's strengths can work in Qatar,” declared Dovizioso. “We head to this race determined to do well.
“We know that our pace isn't so far from the others' on new tyres, so we should certainly be able to fight for a good grid position, but we have a significant gap to make up in race configuration.
“Unfortunately we weren't able to do a race simulation in the tests, so tyre wear is a question mark for me.”
Dovizioso and team-mate Nicky Hayden are currently using lightly modified versions of last year's Desmosedici, but the rain delays at Jerez meant they still have unfinished set-up work ahead of the opening race.
“Unfortunately, we weren't able to complete our work program at Jerez, due to the bad weather,” said team manager Vittoriano Guareschi. “Now we head to Qatar, where we'll have to try some things in order to complete the setup work.
“It will be a strange race in unique conditions, as is always the case in Qatar. We hope that the wind won't bother us too much and that our team will do well. We've had very good results there in the past, so the track isn't an enemy for us.
“We've made steps over the winter, and our bike has improved at every test, so we expect to make further advances in Qatar. Andrea has done well at this circuit; he had a nice race there in his MotoGP debut and finished fourth, and we'll be happy if we're able to repeat that.
“Nicky also likes the track and has done pretty well there, but we'll have to try hard to limit tyre wear. We still have some question marks, but anyway, we're optimistic.”