Italian Andrea Dovizioso threatened to pull of the first major shock of the 2013 MotoGP world championship in Qatar last night when he battled for a top three position in free practice.
The former 125GP world champion put his factory Desmosedici GP13 into the top three in the late stages of last night’s third practice session, which saw the top 10 automatically entered into tonight’s second 15-minute qualifying session.
Dovizioso eventually finished in a morale-boosting fifth place and his best pace on a slippery and dusty surface of 1.56.417 put him just 0.001s behind compatriot and former Ducati rider Valentino Rossi.
Dovizioso’s impressive pace was only just over 0.3s behind the fastest lap clocked by rookie sensation Marc Marquez, who led the way by just 0.001s over reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Last night’s performance was a welcome boost for Dovizioso, who admitted he had not expected to be so competitive while Ducati starts the long process of bouncing back from a disastrous two-year spell with Rossi.
Dovizioso, who became the most successful rider in the history of the French-based Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team with six podiums in 2012, said: “I'm so happy especially about the gap to the fastest. This is really important to us for the race.
"I didn't expect to be this close or make this good time with the soft tyre because I had been concentrating on working with the hard rear.
"For FP4 we have to decide to make some laps with the soft tyre to understand the life for the race. But it is really positive so far."
American teammate Nicky Hayden also made it straight through into QP2 tonight with a best lap of 1.56.670 that put him eighth on the rankings.
He said the practice performance of the GP13 wasn’t a big surprise after his top six finish at the floodlit Losail International Circuit one year ago.
He told MCN: “I know I said it in the (pre-event) press conference and I am sure people thought ‘well he’s got to say that’ but I felt we could do well here. Last year here was one of my better races and I was fifth on the grid and sixth in the race and that was a respectable position.
"This track has definitely been good for us because it is so smooth and with not a lot of bumps that helps us for our chatter. Dovi is doing good but to be fair he has been good all winter. Not real flashy like you expect from Dovi but he gets out there and works hard and really works in a smart way.”