Jorge Lorenzo might have snatched the first pole position of 2013 out of the grasp of British rider Cal Crutchlow, but performance of the night in a new qualifying format went to factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso.
The Italian came within 0.009s of pulling off a major upset to finish fourth and just off the front row at the Losail International Circuit in Doha.
He was only 0.446 behind Lorenzo and his best time of 1.55.160 was over 0.5s clear of former Ducati rider Valentino Rossi, who didn’t qualify higher than sixth in a torrid second season with Ducati in 2012.
Dovizioso’s delight was tainted with some caution as he accepted the Desmosedici was stronger than Honda and Yamaha on fresh Bridgestone rubber. But he said Ducati’s pace over a longer race distance was still a doubt, as he didn’t complete a race simulation during winter testing.
The former 125GP world champion though said: “I really didn’t expect to do a 55.1 and to be fourth fastest I am so happy about that because always in qualifying I struggle a lot.
"Each time I went out on a new tyre the lap time came and I am happy about that. It was so nice to have a good feeling to start to push with the new tyres in the braking and make good corner speed.
"We still have a big question mark for the race and we can’t know which position we can fight for in the race but starting from the second row really gives us good motivation.
"When the tyre drops we didn’t test too much during the winter so we don’t know and I will have to manage that in the race.”
So much has been written and debated about the known weak points of the Ducati package following Rossi’s nightmare two-year spell that MCN asked Dovizioso to explain how he had exploited the Desmosedici’s good points to spring a big surprise in qualifying.
He also finished over 1.5s clear of teammate Nicky Hayden and he said: “I can’t answer 100% because I still have question marks about some things. The race is when I will understand everything but with the new tyres we have good grip like in Jerez.
"That better grip than Honda and Yamaha gives us the possibility to be faster in some places and have smaller problems when we are slower and that makes the gap smaller. But I think for the pace of the race we are a little bit slower.”