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Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Wednesday, 30 March 2011 08:46 UK

Steve Parrish's MotoGP column

Spanish MotoGP, Jerez 2-3 April
Qualifying - Saturday, 2 April: 1150-1500, BBC Red Button/online. Racing - Sunday, 3 April: 125cc and Moto2: 0950-1205, BBC Red Button/online. MotoGP live: 1230-1400, BBC Two/online (Available online to UK users only)

Ducati mechanic Jeremy Burgess and Valentino Rossi
Rossi (right) and mechanic Jeremy Burgess could have their work cut out this season at Ducati

By Steve Parrish
BBC MotoGP commentator

This weekend feels like the real start of the season for me.

We may have had one race in Qatar, won by Casey Stoner, but out in the middle of the desert under lights it never feels like a real race - it's more like an extended testing session.

There were only about 4,000 spectators there and one grandstand, so an afternoon racing in front of 150,000 pumped-up fans in Jerez will be completely different.

Qatar didn't tell us much that we didn't already know. Honda appear to have the best bike, while world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who we expect to be solid all season, was solid. The only thing we really learnt from it was that Dani Pedrosa is not fully fit.

He says his arm problem - the blood-flow entering the arm is greater than the amount flowing out - might be career-threatening, but I think a lot of it is down to the fact he's not fully fit following shoulder injury at the end of last season.

Stoner looked relaxed and happy in Qatar as he has every reason to be - he knows Honda have the best bike - and from the start of the weekend it looked like they could be set for a clean sweep. That's why Lorenzo was so excited to take second place.

He had probably resigned himself to not even being on the podium, so second was more than he could have expected, but Yamaha do need to pick up their game.

The same could be said of Ducati - Valentino Rossi coming seventh wasn't a great start - but talk of crisis is premature.

The big question, which only he can answer, is how fit he is, and how much the lack of pace is down to that.

I still think that bike is definitely a race winner. He says he should be fit about a third of the way through the season - which would tie in with the sixth race at Silverstone on 12 July - so judge him and them then. But if he's not on the podium by that stage, Ducati are in trouble.

And let's give a mention to Cal Crutchlow's debut performance in Qatar. He would like to have been in the top 10, but considering he'd lost a fingertip a few days earlier , his 11th-place finish was a good solid job, and he can have few complaints.

I don't expect too much to be different this time out in Jerez. The cream rose to the top in Qatar, and I think the three main protagonists will be the same this time around.

My Jerez race prediction:

1) Casey Stoner 2) Dani Pedrosa 3) Jorge Lorenzo

Steve Parrish was talking to BBC Sport's Julian Shea.

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see also
Hopkins set for MotoGP comeback
28 Mar 11 |  MotoGP
Stoner takes opening win in Qatar
20 Mar 11 |  MotoGP
MotoGP on the BBC
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MotoGP calendar 2011
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Matt Roberts to present MotoGP
08 Feb 11 |  MotoGP
MotoGP standings
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Lorenzo takes MotoGP world title
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Contact the motorbikes TV team
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