Casey Stoner believes Ducati ended winter testing in much better shape than it had been at the start of the preseason build-up in Malaysia last month.
The Australian finally halted Valentino Rossi's run of fastest times in testing when he set the pace at Losail in the last session of the winter on Friday night. He admitted that Ducati had not been a match for Yamaha when testing began at Sepang in early February, but said he is now much more confident about his chances in the opening round in Qatar next month.
"In the first Sepang test we had a few things to work out but we have made constant progress," said Stoner. "The latest big step forward with the GP10 came last night and today I was able to set a consistently fast pace. I have been able to work with the tires without putting too much stress on them and I was able to keep my pace on used rubber."
His teammate Nicky Hayden has also been closer to the pace during testing than he had been in 2009, and was fourth quickest on Friday – four places higher than he had been when struggling to make the soft tires work the previous night.
"Today went better than yesterday, we took a step forward with the setup and my lap time was decent," Hayden said. "It is still taking us too long to get up to speed but there's no doubt we're making progress."
The American reckoned there was more time to come had he not been one of several riders – including Stoner – to fall at Turn 2.
"Tonight I did my best time on a long run and I think I could have gone even faster on the next lap if it wasn't for the crash in Turn 2," he said. "Anyway the bike is working well, the team has done a fantastic job and I can't wait for the season to start now."
Stoner added that he was also pleased to see Hayden at the front with him – a turnaround he puts down to Ducati's choice of a "big bang" engine setup for 2010 rather than the previous "screamer."
"I like the new engine a lot, it is more manageable and I am pleased to see the other Ducati riders, especially Nicky confirming that with fast times," Stoner said.