Ruben Xaus may have been unable to hold his shock provisional pole, but the d'Antin Ducati rookie still qualified seventh for Saturday's inaugural Qatar Grand Prix - just 0.3664secs from pole position.

"I missed the front row by a whisker!" said Ruben with a wry smile. "I was fourth and less than a tenth off the front row and in the end I came in seventh. The practice was good and positive, I battled like a soldier and I went quite well with the race tyres.

"Tomorrow's race will be really hard and overtaking will be a delicate process because if you go off the racing line, the track is really dirty and going into the gravel could mean you losing around a minute.

"It will be important to stay focused and ride with care. My aim will be the same as ever, to do a good race, pick up points and show that I'm improving bit by bit. We don't need to look for glory in one race, but simply to improve on a day to day basis," concluded the Catalan.

Team-mate Neil Hodgson improved his time by over two and a half seconds, but was left just fifteenth after being 'over cautious'.

"It hasn't gone too badly, although the truth is that perhaps I was a little bit nervous with the track conditions and I think that tomorrow I could even go a half-second quicker," confessed the Brit.

"The thing is that it's as if the track were only a metre wide, because that's the area we have been cleaning and if you make the slightest error and run off line, you're out of there. It will be important to stay concentrated because I think it will be the hardest race of the year," he added.



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