Casey Stoner says he is feeling extremely confident not just about the MotoGP season opener but the whole year ahead, having carried his superb testing and practice form through to qualifying in Qatar.
In his first race weekend as a works Honda rider, Stoner beat his teammate Dani Pedrosa to pole having already been fastest in all three practice sessions. But having won at Losail for three straight years from 2007 to 2009, Stoner said he had been optimistic about this circuit anyway, and it was his likely form at Jerez and beyond that really excited him.
"I think the season is the biggest thing I'm looking forward to – the consistency we've shown in pre-season testing is something that's really given us a lot of confidence," said Stoner. "This weekend we've made small steps, but it is a track where we've done very well in the past, so we're not holding too much on this circuit, for sure."
The Australian was not totally satisfied with his qualifying pace, but warned his rivals that he had been able to lap consistently at 1m54.8s – equivalent to third-placed Jorge Lorenzo's qualifying time – on worn tires in race trim.
"The team's done a fantastic job, they've done everything right, we've made small steps in every session and slowly got the bike to a place where we really enjoy it," Stoner said. "We were basically doing 1m54.8s consistently with a race distance on a hard set of tires, so we're very happy with that.
"We thought we might have been able to get a little bit more out of the soft tires, but we were struggling to get those tires working quite as well as we would like.
"We did enough today in this session and you can't start the season in a much better way. We've got to look forward from here and see what we can do tomorrow."