For floodlit opener
Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will share the front row for tomorrow's season-opening Grand Prix in Qatar, having qualified second and third in tonight's session at the Losail International Circuit.
The pair were split by just 0.024 seconds
tonight and beaten only by Casey Stoner, with Rossi and Stoner having now been first and second in all three sessions.
Despite the single-tyre rule having spelled the end of one-lap qualifying tyres, tonight's session proved to be exciting nonetheless with most riders, including Rossi and Lorenzo, choosing to keep one of the softer compound Bridgestone tyres to use at the end of the 45 minutes for a couple of flying laps.
Tomorrow's 22-lap race will see the riders using the harder compound Bridgestone rubber and Rossi, who has had a good race pace all weekend, is confident of being able to mount a strong challenge.
“I am really happy to be on the front row here because we know that this isn't one of our best tracks. We also knew that Stoner would be strong and, although this is definitely true, we're not too far off and the gap is closing all the time”, he said. “Starting second is going to be very important here because there is a question mark over the tyres on this surface. The asphalt is still very dirty which is hard on the tyres and I think that the last few laps are going to be quite entertaining! There are a couple of places on the track where we can still be faster so we will have a look at the data and I hope we can make another step in the warm up and fix a couple of small problems. There is definitely a question mark over the last six or seven laps though and I think we could be sliding about a bit. Anyway, everyone is in the same position, with the same tyres, and it could make it quite fun; let's wait and see.
Lorenzo meanwhile has posted his fast times on the softer tyre and now needs to make a few changes together with his team and use the warm-up well in order to refine his setting and find a better feeling with the race tyre.
“After being on pole here in my first MotoGP race last year, I am happy to be back on the front row at least!”, he said. “It is going to be important I think because it will be a hard race. During the test here I was faster with the hard tyre but for some reason we have the opposite situation this time and I am much faster with the soft tyre. With the hard tyre we have a few issues still, which is a problem because this is the tyre we need to use for the race. Now we need to work hard to try to solve the problem tonight. Tomorrow I won't be thinking about winning, just about doing the best I can and taking as many points as is possible in the circumstances. Of course you never know what will happen in a race!”
The race will begin at 2300 local time, CET 2200.