Casey Stoner's perfect Repsol Honda MotoGP debut continued during Saturday's qualifying session in Qatar, when the #27 held off team-mate Dani Pedrosa to secure his 27th pole.

As they have been all weekend, Stoner and Pedrosa were in a class of their own during qualifying, locking out first and second for much of the hour.

No other rider held provisional pole after the opening five minutes and Stoner always managed to respond to Pedrosa's improvements, although the final margin between them was a frail 0.205sec.

Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo was best of the rest in third place, a distant 0.810sec from Stoner.

"We can't ask for a much better weekend, everything has gone well and the team have made all the right steps and gradually improved the bike as the weekend progressed," said Stoner. "Tonight I was able to achieve good, consistent lap times again on the hard tyre and this is important for the race tomorrow.

"As ever, we will keep our feet on the ground as we've had good starts to seasons in the past and then they haven't played out as expected, we just need to keep working and ensure that we continue to progress. We've done all our homework and the best job possible, now I just want to get the season started."

Since making his MotoGP debut in 2006, Stoner has taken pole positions on a 990cc satellite Honda (Michelin tyres), 800cc factory Ducati (Bridgestone) and now an 800cc factory Honda (Bridgestone).

The last time a Honda rider won the first race of the season was with Valentino Rossi in 2003. That will surely change on Sunday, with Stoner and Pedrosa looking so strong, although Pedrosa insists the situation isn't clear.

"I don't know yet if the race will be a fight between Casey and myself," said Pedrosa. "We've never run at 10:00pm, so I hope the bike works well after 125cc and Moto2 races.

"I want to prepare as best as possible for tomorrow and be ready to be consistent for 22 laps. The race will be fast, I guess, so we will need to maintain a high pace. I hope I will be able to do it and fight for the victory".

But third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, who will start from seventh place, doubts even Pedrosa can fight with Stoner.

"It is impossible to catch Casey, I will try to maintain contact with Dani, Lorenzo and Spies. It's important to start the season with a good result and I will give everything in the race," he said.

Stoner won at Qatar from 2007 to 2009, then crashed out of the lead last year. Pedrosa has never won at Qatar, in any class, and was only seventh last season.



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