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Saturday, 8th March 2008

MotoGP rookies qualify first and second for season-opening night race.

Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland made an explosive start to their MotoGP

careers by qualifying first and second for the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, as Yamaha and Michelin swept the front row ahead of Sunday's inaugural night race.

And it was satellite Tech 3 rider Toseland who led most of the floodlit session, the reigning double World Superbike champion fitting an early qualifying tyre after one-third of the hour - a smart move given the ever sinking track temperatures.

Factory rider Lorenzo followed suit soon after, snatching pole by 0.343secs, but Toseland immediately struck back with a 1min 54.182secs circulation. That time, just 0.037secs ahead of Lorenzo's more powerful pneumatic-valve machine, was to be Toseland's fastest lap of the session - and kept him on target for a dream debut grand prix pole position right until the final two minutes, when Lorenzo's last attack toppled the Englishman by 0.255secs.

The reigning double 250cc world champion had been runner-up to MotoGP world champion in all three previous track sessions at Losail this weekend, and had been fastest of all at last week's Qatar test, making his pole far from a total shock - but still an incredible achievement.

Toseland's team-mate Colin Edwards was 0.317secs slower than Toseland to complete a perfect session for the three Michelin M1s - while Stoner was unsurprisingly the best Bridgestone

rider, in fourth position and 0.8secs from pole.

The Japanese rubber manufacturers has struggled to adapt to the cold track conditions, prompted by the new night-time schedule, but Stoner will hope for better in a race specification during the inaugural night race.

Valentino Rossi, who has switched from Michelin to Bridgestone for 2008, was the nest best Bridgestone rider in seventh position - some 1.2secs behind team-mate Lorenzo - while Nicky Hayden

pulled out all his qualifying magic to rescue sixth position for Repsol Honda.

Hayden was riding the 2007-spec RC212V tonight, while team-mate Dani Pedrosa used the 2008 model to qualify in eighth position. The top Honda rider on the grid will be LCR's Randy de Puniet, in fifth position.

Behind Pedrosa, the top ten was completed by rookie Andrea Dovizioso and Kawasaki's John Hopkins, who was the third and final Bridgestone rider inside the top ten despite his groin injury.

Hopper's former Suzuki team-mate Chris Vermeulen was the lead GSV-R rider in eleventh, while new team-mate Loris Capirossi was 13th as Suzuki's tough run continued.

But those with the biggest worries will be Marco Melandri and Anthony West. Melandri's torrid winter form has continued during the Qatar weekend and he will start his first Ducati race from just 16th, while Kawasaki rider West will line-up 18th and last.


1. Lorenzo
2. Toseland
3. Edwards
4. Stoner
5. de Puniet
6. Hayden
7. Rossi
8. Pedrosa
9. Dovizioso
10. Hopkins
11. Vermeulen
12. de Angelis
13. Capirossi
14. Elias
15. Nakano
16. Melandri
17. Guintoli
18. West
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