MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith's third row grid position in Qatar was beyond what the British rider anticipated as he prepares to make his race debut in the premier class in the Losail night race on Sunday.

Smith set the eighth fastest time overall in 1m 56.315s to finish 0.445s behind Alvaro Bautista on the Gresini Honda and ahead of factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden in 11th position.

"I was really happy to make it into QP2, so to claim a place on the third row for my first MotoGP race is an incredible feeling," said the Tech 3 Yamaha rider.

"I'm particularly pleased because I only used one soft tyre in the 15-minute session and it looks like everybody else set their best time on their second soft tyre.

"I used an extra one last night in FP3 to make sure I made into the top 10 for QP2 and I want to keep another soft tyre for the warm-up session to give me some feeling ahead of the race tomorrow night."

Smith's goal for his MotoGP debut is to become embroiled in a 'battle' with his premier class counterparts as he seeks to gain more experience of competing at the highest level.

"To be on the third row is better than I expected and to be in front of Nicky (Hayden) is a bonus.

"Hopefully tomorrow night I will be able to get in a battle," he added.

"That's the best way for me to learn how to ride this bike more and gain more experience, and I don't have a target other than that."