While Ducati's star-signing Valentino Rossi struggled to 13th at the final pre-season test in Qatar, fellow Desmosedici newcomer Randy de Puniet provided hope for the Italian factory with a competitive sixth place.

The Frenchman, who has signed for the satellite Pramac team after three-seasons with LCR Honda, was left well outside the top ten at last month's Sepang tests - then fell twice on the first night in Qatar.

But it all came good on Monday, when de Puniet lapped 0.764sec slower than Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner and just 0.15sec slower than third place Ben Spies (Factory Yamaha).

"After the way the last two tests in Malaysia went, next year we will only come here in Qatar to test," smiled de Puniet, whose best time was set towards the end of eight consecutive fast laps. "Joking apart, at this circuit the situation is completely different than the six days of work in Malaysia.

"I feel better riding my Ducati and I really enjoyed today. My team did a fantastic job after two crashes yesterday. We tried many different solutions changing tyres to understand the various reactions in anticipation of Sunday's race. We are confident."

The next best Ducati rider was Rossi's factory team-mate Nicky Hayden, in ninth, while de Puniet's team-mate Loris Capirossi - a multiple MotoGP race winner for Ducati - was just 14th after a fast crash.

"Today I felt good on the track, everything seemed to go in the right direction, but after the crash at more than 200km/h, things did not go as expected," said Loris. "However, I remain very calm for the first race here in Qatar this weekend.

"We tried some technical solutions that should allow us to be competitive and register significantly lower lap times. Now we enjoy a couple of relaxing days and finally the new season kick off."



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