Can anyone stop Ducati?
The Ducati Marlboro Team are firm favourites to win Sunday's season opening Spanish Grand Prix, after a dominant qualifying one-two for Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau was combined with problems for Valentino Rossi.
Capirossi and Gibernau had indicated the extent of their threat by topping the final pre-season test, also at Jerez, two weeks ago - but both lapped even faster this afternoon, breaking the previous lap record on a day when Bridgestone claimed a front row sweep.
But, most troublingly for world champion Rossi and his Camel Yamaha Team, the Italian wasn't just beaten by superior Bridgestone qualifiers - he could only clock the ninth fastest lap, six places behind top Michelin rider Nicky Hayden, and looks like he'll need significant overnight set-up progress to mount any kind of victory challenge tomorrow.
Rossi can never be written off - and the all-Honda second row, like Nakano, remains an unknown factor - but Ducati's pre-race preparations have been near perfect and Capirossi is oozing with confidence:
"What a fun day, I could ride the way I like to ride. The bike was sideways as usual, but everything was under control!" he grinned. "I was going for a 1.38 on my last lap but I just missed it. So far this has been a very positive weekend, following on from the great tests we did here two weeks ago.
"During those tests we weren't looking for sensational lap times, we were working so we could come here for the race with a bike that works consistently for a lot of laps, and we have found a good balance. Bridgestone have improved a lot, I was a lot faster today with soft tyres than last time here and we are really good with race tyres too.
"We haven't seen Ducati first and second in qualifying since 2003 and I think we should also be able to make a great race too. I don't think I'll try and leave everyone behind from the first lap because this track is very demanding on tyres and it would be better to save them for later," he added, hinting at his likely race tactic.
Gibernau finished 0.221secs behind his team-mate on his Ducati qualifying debut, and is trying to remain under the radar by avoiding talk of specific results or expectations.
"I'm keeping my feet on the ground," confirmed Sete. "Like I keep saying, I'm in the middle of a learning process with the bike, the team, the tyres, everything. My goal today was to be on the first or the second row, but everyone's done such a great job, the team, the factory, Bridgestone, my crew chief Juan (Martinez), so I have to say thank you to everyone involved in this project. They have given me back the feeling I need to go racing. Tomorrow will be a learning race for me, my aim is to get away with the leading group and try to be with them all the way to the end of the race. I hope I can do it."
"An amazing performance, just like 2003, you couldn't ask for a better start to the season," declared Ducati CEO and president Federico Minoli, referring to the 2003 Spanish GP qualifying one-two achieved by Capirossi and then team-mate Troy Bayliss. "The bike really showed its power in T3 and T4. Loris showed his class all around the circuit and Sete was also great. Considering this is only his first GP on the Desmosedici, it gives us great hope for the future."