|Valentino Rossi believes he has significantly narrowed the gap to Casey Stoner at Losail after today's free practice session.
Stoner has won in Qatar for the past two seasons, was quickest by a substantial margin in the winter test at the 3.3-mile track, and was over a second clear of the field at one stage in practice today.
But Rossi was satisfied after getting within 0.4 seconds of Stoner's time by the end of the night.
"This evening I am quite happy because at the test we were one second from Casey but now the gap is much less," he said.
"We had some ideas after the test to improve our pace and I am happy to say that they all seemed to have worked. I am fast, I have a good pace and I am happy with this opening session.
"We can still improve; the track was quite dirty tonight so I think that tomorrow we will be able to push a bit harder. It's much warmer than at the test and this is helping us too, I am more confident and I can ride my M1 how I want to."
Jorge Lorenzo was fourth on the second factory Yamaha, and expects to be much closer to the front tomorrow.
"We had a few problems, mainly in the hard braking areas where I didn't have such a great feeling with the front tyre, but apart from that it's been okay," he said.
The track was quite dirty so it was difficult to go at 100 per cent, and I think tomorrow it will be much better. At the end today we made a big improvement and my last lap was much better, so I am not worried and I think tomorrow, with more time on track, we can improve."