Casey Stoner proved why he is the overwhelming favourite to kick off the 2011 MotoGP world championship with victory in Qatar tomorrow night after he claimed pole position for the 22-lap season opener.
Stoner’s domination of the opening round showed no signs of relenting as he clocked a best time of 1.54.137 to once again outshine Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa.
The Spaniard again led the pursuit of Stoner but he was 0.205s behind his team-mate at the end of tonight’s decisive qualifying session.
Stoner though told MCN he wasn’t predicting a straight battle for the victory between himself and triple world champion Pedrosa.
The pair have been in commanding form all week on the Repsol Honda RC212V and only reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo, Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies lapped inside of a second of Stoner.
Lorenzo was 0.605s behind Pedrosa but Aussie Stoner said: “There’s always the warm-up but we don’t really know who is going to be up there in the fight. People can lift their game and we might struggle more, so we’ve done the best job we’ve possibly can up to this point.
"We’ve got to make sure we finish the race tomorrow and get some good points on the board. At the moment myself and Dani seem to be able to hold a little bit higher pace than the others but we really don’t know what people are capable of.
"We’ve got a lot of world champions in this class who can pick it up on race day, so we’ll see what happens.”
Stoner, who is chasing a fourth win in five years at the Doha circuit, said he was surprised that he was able to get down to a low 1.54.
He added: “The biggest surprise was I could 54.8s on old hard tyres and I was really happy with that. I was a bit disappointed because I thought with the soft tyre we’d get a bit more grip than what we got.
"We got some chattering and the bike was moving a lot, so if we got the soft tyres working better we’d have been in the 53s.
"Once I did a 54.1 we knew we could have gone faster with a little bit better if we got the soft tyre working a little better. But I can’t really ask for much more.”