While most expected the Japanese factories to close the gap on the Italian marque in 2008, after a dream 2007 season in which it won all three MotoGP titles, the biggest surprise has been that the four current Ducati riders have often lapped slower than they did - on various machinery - last season.

Only Stoner has raced for Ducati in both 2007 and 2008. New factory team-mate Marco Melandri rode a Bridgestone-shod Gresini Honda last season, as did new Alice signing Toni Elias, while Sylvain Guintoli steered a Dunlop-shod Tech 3 Yamaha during his rookie year before joining Luis d'Antin's team.

Due to the unique conditions provided by the inaugural Qatar night race - at which Stoner dominated, but the other three Desmosedici riders struggled - only rounds two and three, at Jerez and Estoril, have been used for comparison.

The Spanish Grand Prix took place on March 25, 2007 and March 30 in 2008. The Portuguese Grand Prix was held on September 16, 2007 but moved forward to April 13 in 2008.

The difference in pole position and the fastest race lap for 2007/2008 are shown to indicate track conditions and the relative level of time improvement possible at the front.

The lap times, summarised at the end, show that only Stoner was able to circulate faster than last season at Jerez, but even the world champion was slower at Estoril.

Jerez 2007/2008

QualifyingPole: 1min 39.402secs (2007-Pedrosa)/1min 38.189secs (2008-Lorenzo)Casey Stoner: 1min 39.524secs (2007)/1min 39.286secs (2008) Marco Melandri: 1min 39.722secs (2007)/1min 41.027secs (2008)Toni Elias: 1min 39.660secs (2007)/1min 40.286secs (2008)Sylvain Guintoli: 1min 41.219secs (2007)/1min 40.939secs (2008)

RaceFastest lap: 1min 40.905secs (2007-Rossi)/1min 40.116secs (2008-Pedrosa)Casey Stoner: 1min 41.443secs (2007)/1min 41.386secs (2008)Marco Melandri: 1min 41.303secs (2007)/1min 41.735secs (2008)Toni Elias: 1min 41.395secs (2007)/1min 42.515secs (2008)Sylvain Guintoli:1min 42.291secs (2007)/1min 42.880secs (2008)

Estoril 2007/2008

QualifyingPole: 1min 36.301secs (2007-Hayden)/1min 35.715secs (2008-Lorenzo)Casey Stoner: 1min 36.341secs (2007)/1min 37.253secs (2008)Marco Melandri: 1min 37.157secs (2007)/1min 39.115secs (2008)Toni Elias: 1min 37.246secs(2007)/1min 38.561secs (2008)Sylvain Guintoli: 1min 37.189secs (2007)1min 39.355secs (2008)

RaceFastest lap: 1min 37.493secs (2007-Hayden)/1min 37.404secs (2008-Lorenzo)Casey Stoner: 1min 37.600secs (2007)/1min 37.972secs (2008)Marco Melandri: 1min 38.006secs (2007)/1min 39.387secs (2008)Toni Elias: 1min 38.870secs (2007)/1min 39.439secs (2008)Sylvain Guintoli: 1min 38.997secs (2007)/1min 39.811secs (2008)

Summary

Jerez 2007/2008

QualifyingPole: 1.213secs faster in 2008.Casey Stoner: 0.238secs faster in 2008.Marco Melandri: 1.305secs slower in 2008.Toni Elias: 0.626secs slower in 2008.Sylvain Guintoli: 0.28secs faster in 2008.

RaceFastest lap: 0.789secs faster in 2008.Casey Stoner: 0.057secs faster in 2008.Marco Melandri: 0.432secs slower in 2008.Toni Elias: 1.12secs slower in 2008.Sylvain Guintoli: 0.589secs slower in 2008.

Estoril 2007/2008

QualifyingPole: 0.586secs faster in 2008.Casey Stoner: 0.912secs slower in 2008.Marco Melandri: 1.958secs slower in 2008.Toni Elias: 1.315secs slower in 2008.Sylvain Guintoli: 2.166secs slower in 2008.

RaceFastest lap: 0.089secs faster in 2008.Casey Stoner: 0.372secs slower in 2008. Marco Melandri: 1.381secs slower in 2008.Toni Elias: 0.569secs slower in 2008.Sylvain Guintoli: 0.814secs slower in 2008.

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