Prince of darkness Dovizioso sets pace in Qatar

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Doha (AFP)

Italy's Andrea Dovizioso, the world championship runner-up last season, took his Ducati to the top of the time charts in Friday practice for the season-opening Qatar MotoGP.

Dovizioso clocked a best lap of 1 min 54.361 sec in the second session staged under floodlights, just like the race will be at Losail on Sunday night.

"It's really good, and we've confirmed the good feeling from the test, which I'm really happy about," said Dovizioso.

"Of course, we had to adapt to the temperature and it's much hotter. Fortunately, the bike worked well in these temperatures and now we have to work on the details for the race."

Dovizioso finished ahead of compatriot Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Pramac) and Spain's Alex Rins on a Suzuki.

Behind these three were Jorge Lorenzo of Spain on the second factory Ducati at 0.470 sec off the pace and defending world champion and compatriot Marc Marquez on a Honda.

Marquez, chasing a fourth MotoGP world title and third in succession this season, was 0.489 sec behind Dovizioso.

"Actually the track has changed compared to the test here and we now have to adapt the setup of the bike in order to make the tyres working well," said Marquez.

"Tomorrow we will see if we can get closer to the riders that are ahead of us who, at the moment, seems to have something more."

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, starting his 23rd season, was 0.492 sec back on his Yamaha and in ninth spot overall while teammate Maverick Vinales could only manage the 11th best time at 0.834 sec off the pace.

"I didn't ride in a perfect way and I lost some time during my lap, I made some small mistakes and I paid for them, because my position is not fantastic, I'm just ninth," said 39-year-old Rossi who penned a new two-year Yamaha deal on Thursday.

Practice times:

1. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 1:54.361, 2. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati Pramac) at 0.006, 3. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 0.097, 4. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Ducati) 0.470, 5. Andrea Iannone (ITA/Suzuki) 0.480, 6. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.489, 7. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 0.490, 8. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/LCR Honda) 0.491, 9. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 0.492, 10. Johann Zarco (FRA/Yamaha Tech3) 0.551