Andrea Dovizioso will know if the Ducati GP15 can fight for this year's MotoGP title after five or six races.

On pole for the Qatar season-opener, 'Desmo Dovi' battled for Ducati's first victory since 2010 throughout a dazzling season-opening night race, eventually losing out to countryman Valentino Rossi's Yamaha by just 0.174s.

The result was especially stunning since Dovizioso and third place team-mate Andrea Iannone began the weekend with just five days of testing on the all-new machine, designed by Gigi Dall'Igna.

"Nobody I think imagined this speed and results in the first race," grinned Dovizioso. "The base of the bike is good and will work everywhere. We don't know yet how strong we will be at every track or how many races we will need to improve [our weak points]. Maybe at Austin we can fix everything, maybe it will take four races. That is normal. What we did today is not normal!"

Do you think you can fight for the championship with this bike?

"If I have to speak after the feeling I have today, 'yes'," replied the Italian, fresh from the rostrum. "But I know it is not the reality. The [championship] reality you can only understand after five or six races."

Ducati hasn't battled for the title since Casey Stoner in the 800cc era. But with Dall'Igna almost achieving his season-long goal of a GP15 win at the very first attempt, the Japanese factories look to have a real battle on their hands.

And that's without throwing in the seven extra engine changes (relative to the Hondas and Yamahas) and exemption from the engine-development freeze available to Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia.

Top of Dovizioso's GP15 'to do' list is enhanced tyre life.

"I tried not to use the rear tyre too much in the first half of the race but it still wasn't enough because in the last five laps there was not enough grip to fight Valentino. I couldn't make the same speed in some corners and that meant it was difficult to make a strategy.

"My strategy was to start the last lap ahead of Valentino, but I couldn't exit Turn 1 in first. After that I just pushed as hard as I could and made my fastest lap with a finished tyre on the final lap, but it wasn't enough.

"Anyway to fight for victory at the end of a race is something every rider wants and when you can do it with Ducati after two years of struggling, and the very first race with the new bike, is something really special.

"I'm really happy also with the team and the engineers. Everyone who worked on this project. They haven't had much sleep!"

The double podium means Ducati have now achieved three dry rostrums since the start of last year and will therefore lose two of the extra four litres of race fuel available to all competitors except the factory Hondas and Yamahas.

It is unlikely to hold Ducati back, Dall'Igna stating that they did not exceed their new limit of 22 litres in any of last year's races.

Round two of the 2015 world championship takes place in Texas next weekend - scene of Dovizioso's first Ducati podium one year ago.



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