Runner-up in Qatar for the past three years, few would be surprised if Andrea Dovizioso is once again fighting for victory in Sunday's 2018 MotoGP season opener.

In 2015 Dovizioso was just 0.174s from victory, then +2.019s in 2016 and +0.461s in 2017.

Ducati's reigning MotoGP title runner-up has also been 'very quick' throughout the three pre-season tests and looks in the strongest form of his career.

"I’m actually very satisfied with the feeling that I have reached with the Desmosedici GP18 during the last three test sessions: we have always been very quick and I’m happy with the work done in Ducati over the winter," Dovizioso said.

"At Losail our bike has always worked well and this year it seems it’s going even better, so I’m very confident for the first GP of the season.

"We still have to improve some aspects for the race and a lot will depend on the conditions we will find during the weekend, because in Qatar things can change rapidly, but I believe I have the right experience to manage every situation.

"This year there are many very quick and competitive riders and I know the strong points of our bike as well as the aspects we still have to improve, but I’m very focussed and ready to start the season in a great way.”

While Dovizioso will be starting his sixth Ducati season, it will be a crucial year two for team-mate Jorge Lorenzo. The triple MotoGP champion suffered his first winless season in the premier-class after switching to Ducati and dropped down the order after a record-breaking time in the first Sepang test.

“Finally the championship is about to start! It’s the moment of truth, and as always the appointment in Qatar will be special because racing a MotoGP bike at night is something unique.

"During the last two tests, we have had some good and some difficult moments, but we must remain positive and follow the same direction as the Sepang tests.

"The bike has a lot of potential and we must concentrate on finding a setting that adapts better to my riding style, in order to be competitive right from the first practice sessions.”

This year the race will start two hours earlier on Sunday evening, at 19.00 local time.