Casey Stoner described his pole position in Qatar as a 'perfect' start to the season, and hopes it will be the springboard to a stronger title challenge than he has managed for the past two seasons.
The 2007 MotoGP champion is chasing a fourth consecutive Losail victory – but does not want to suffer the same kind of subsequent slump that allowed Valentino Rossi to run away with the last two titles.
"We're a lot better prepared for the start of the season than we have been for the last couple of years," said Stoner. "If we can start off the season like we have [in recent years], then we've normally gone downhill after that, so we want to start going uphill a little bit more from this point. It's a perfect way to start the season.
"At this point, we're very happy. The bike's going really well around this circuit. We're yet to see what it can do at other tracks."
Rossi dominated much of pre-season testing, but Stoner believes Ducati's winter change of engine configuration meant it would always need time to get fully up to speed.
"We've been slowly getting stronger and stronger in testing," said Stoner. "It takes quite a different set-up, this engine configuration, compared to the past. We have started to have the front end push wide in turns, and it takes a lot setting this bike up now."
He is optimistic that he can maintain his qualifying advantage in the race, pointing out that his longer stints in qualifying were particularly strong.
"The perfect thing was that I did one of my fastest laps with 16 laps [of wear] on race tires," Stoner said. "We're very happy with that, but we maybe need to make the bike work a little bit better on softer tires."