Last year in Motegi Andrea Dovizioso claimed a stunning pole position that surprised the paddock but when the Italian set the pace in qualifying for the season opening Qatar Grand Prix it merely met expectations. The Italian, who was able to take advantage of the softer Open class tyre, ended the session two tenths of a second faster than Dani Pedrosa.
When he came back to Parc Ferme Dovizioso could barely contain his joy and when he had time to assess the situation it was clear how much having the potential to contend at the front means to him:
" The feeling I had in qualifying is special, but to arrive in the first race competitive is amazing feeling," said Dovizioso. "We work really hard the last two years we struggling a lot, but we never give up and the new bike is really good, the base is really good. Still we have to understand more, but the base is there. When you make a special lap you always have the feeling that you can improve but I don't know about today!"
Having been a factory Honda rider earlier in his career and raced for Tech3 Yamaha also Dovizioso has had a varied career in the top tier of racing but he couldn't recall ever feeling as comfortable on a bike as he did today:
"I don't remember feeling this good on a MotoGP bike, maybe never! The good thing was the feeling that I had on the bike and I was able to do everything that I wanted. I've not had this feeling many times in my career so I'm very happy with that."
The advantage of the softer tyre clearly played a role in Dovizioso's pole position but overall he is confident that, unlike last year, he has the genuine pace to be able to consolidate his grid position into a strong result.
"My pace in FP4 was really good and I think that's more impressive than the qualifying time because it's really good for the race. From my experiences the race is always different to qualifying and something will happen, the grip might be different, but the race is the only time that we'll see our level. In practice we have shown our speed but the race is different so we'll wait until the race to find out all of our details.
"[Our pace on the medium tyre] is the positive thing, because our target it was that. In FP4 I was the only one with a similar pace to Márquez. This is something special for us, especially if we compare to last year. I believe there is another 4, 5 riders who will be really strong in the race, and this track is always difficult, 22 laps, also for the energy. But our speed is there, and when we speak about speed, this year is different than in the past.
"Today our pace was the same as Marc and the competitors were half a second behind us. In the race it will be much closer with Dani, Jorge and Valentino all closer than five tenths but in the race everything is different! The bike is new and we've not had many days on it so the race will show our level and where we need to improve."