Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista believes an encouraging pre-season development programme has enabled him to make a positive start to the first MotoGP race of the season in Qatar.

The Spaniard will start Sunday's opener on the front row in second position after narrowly missing out on pole position to Marc Marquez by 0.057s.

Bautista, who is the only Honda RC213V rider using Showa rather than Ohlins suspension, said: "For sure it's been a very good start to the season for me; especially because I've struggled at this track in the past, but this weekend has been totally different.

"I think the work we did during the winter tests has given me a good feeling on the bike and at this track I can be competitive.

"I was very close to pole but Marc was strong enough to take it. Tomorrow will be a really hard race and fun, because a lot of riders have a very similar rhythm," he added. "So it's important to start from the front row."

Bautista expected Aleix Espargaro to claim a front row place following his dominant performance in the first three free practice sessions, but the Open Forward Yamaha rider fell twice during Q2 to thwart his chances, eventually finishing ninth.

"In practice we saw Open riders with the softer tyre at the front and we expected that the first row in qualifying will be for them," said Bautista.

"In the end I think we pushed hard and also Aleix [Espargaro] crashed two times. If not I think he would be on the front row.

"But anyway the race is 22 laps and here the tyre will be important for the duration of the race so we'll see what happens."

The Gresini rider feels he has managed to carry his end of season form from 2013 into the new campaign and Bautista is aiming for consistency throughout this year's championship.

"Last year we ended the championship with the top guys and also in the winter we were competitive. That means the work we are doing, especially with suspension, is paying off. I'm so happy," he said.

"I feel better every time I ride the bike and hope to stay up here for the rest of the year."



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