Ducati Marlboro had very mixed fortunes in qualifying for the first MotoGP race of the season at the Losail International Circuit outside of Doha, Qatar. Casey Stoner continued the form he’d shown in sweeping the two practice sessions by taking the pole position by a comfortable .473 of a second, while teammate Nicky Hayden, who was struggling near the bottom of the order, had a vicious highside, landing hard on his back before being transported to a local hospital for a precautionary scan.In the first ever shortened 45-minute practice session, and without the benefit of qualifying tires, Stoner lapped the Losail circuit in a time of 1:55.286. The lap was over 1.3 seconds off the 2008 pole performance of Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. Much of it could be put to two factors; less practice and no Bridgestone qualifiers. The riders had only two 45 minute free practice sessions prior to Saturday night’s qualifying session. And only two rear Bridgestone choices, a soft and a medium. The riders discovered early on that the soft wouldn’t go race distance-it became, in essence, a qualifier-and there were legitimate concerns that the medium would go 22 hard laps.”Definitely,” Stoner began, “I think everyone’s in the same position. With so much dust on the track, the soft tires are basically qualifying. They didn’t last many laps at all before they started to spin a lot. And the hard tires, you definitely feel there’s a lacking grip there. And after a good 10-12 laps, they already start to go off as well.”So I think it’s going to very interesting toward the end of the race tomorrow. And we’re just going to have to get the best set-up. That’s why all of us are less confident than we have been prior to the race in the past. And I think everyone’s got changes and steps to make with these small practice sessions that we have before the race tomorrow.”Second fastest Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha) echoed Stoner’s remarks. He said the team had to make “another small step for tomorrow, because anyway the race will be very long and make 22 laps with these tires, for sure at the end we will see some movement and some slides.”But we are quite ready, we have to fix two or three problems and starting in the second position is so important also, because (Jorge) Lorenzo, and (Andrea) Dovizioso and also (Loris) Capirossi are not far. So is important to stay in the center of the first row for tomorrow.”Lorenzo filled out the front row, only .024 secs. down on Rossi, with Repsol Honda’s Dovizioso, Rizla Suzuki’s Capirossi, and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards on row two.The third row was book-ended by Honda’s, LCR Honda’ Randy de Puniet in seventh and San Carol Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis in ninth, with Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) in between.Further back Dani Pedrosa struggled to qualify 15th. The Spaniard has limited flexibility in his left knee, the result of surgery to correct damage he inflicted on himself at a test here a month ago.Hayden qualified 16th, but his availability for the race remains unknown. Incomplete television replays showed what appeared to be a violent highside while almost straight up and down. The bike ghost rode all the way to the guardrail and then went over it. Hayden was first shown on his side, then up on his knees before medical personnel stabilized his head with a neck brace. He was later taken into Doha, about a 20 minute ride west of the track.
MotoGP Qualifying:1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:55.2862. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:55.7593. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:55.7834. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:55.9775. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:56.1496. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:56.1947. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:56.3588. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:56.4939. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 1:56.79010. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1:56.85211. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) 1:56.96212. Toni Elias (Honda) 1:57.22513. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:57.51014. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:57.72915. Sete Gibernau (Ducati) 1:57.89916. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:58.21517. Yuki Takahashi (Honda) 1:58.78418. Nicole Canepa (Ducati) 1:58.999