MotoGP Sepang test: James Toseland talks Yamaha MotoGP debut

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James Toseland shrugged off an early crash on his Yamaha debut in Sepang today as the British rider had an eventful start to his MotoGP career.

  • Click here to see James Toseland's first MotoGP crash

The double World Superbike champion crashed on only his sixth lap on board the Tech 3 YZR-M1. 

He lost the front at the first corner having clipped a white line on the inside, which was still damp and dirty following heavy overnight rain which had delayed his long-awaited first ride for over an hour this morning.

Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins also crashed at turn one today.

Using the same bike that Makoto Tamada finished the 2007 season on, only with Michelin tyres, James Toseland told MCN: “That was a bit strange. With the rain the track was a bit dirty and it just caught me out. I just touched the white line on the inside.

“I’d got a pretty good line. But I went a little bit too tight and touched a white line and I think it might have been a bit damp. I was disappointed with that. It was only a slow corner so it was fine.”

After that early setback, James Toseland only managed to complete another 23 laps as his debut was plagued by poor weather. Heavy rain in the afternoon left him a frustrated spectator, as he desperately wanted more track time to acclimatise to the YZR-M1.

He ended with a best time of 2.05.438 having been limited to just 29 laps, which was just under 2.5secs slower than fastest rider Randy de Puniet.

James Toseland described his first day as ‘steady’, admitting he faced a massive learning curve with almost every aspect for him completely new today.

The 27-year-old said: “New track, new bike, new tyres, new suspension, it’s all very new. It was just steady away. But just as I was getting into a bit of a rhythm the rain came down so that was that really.

“I’m tired already trying to get used to everything and just thinking about everything I need to do. Especially the new track because this is a really technical place.

“It’s possibly the most difficult track I’ve had to learn really. I went to do the Suzuka Eight-hour this year and even that place wasn’t as hard as this.”

James Toseland was given a helping hand on his first few laps out of the pits when new team-mate Colin Edwards slowed on his first run to let Toseland follow.

It helped him quickly gauge lines and braking markers required. He was behind the Texan when he suffered his low speed tumble at turn one and he added: “The team is working really well and Colin keeps sitting down with me and telling us a few things about lines.

“But he’s here to test as well so he can’t be just cruising around in front of me while I get used to the track. It’s really good because these guys have got a GPS system on the computer where it shows the exact line that he’s taking and I’m taking and it’s like a camera shot of the track and it shows the two lines together.

“Looking at that I know the different lines I need to be taking. It’s a totally different world. I’ve ridden a motorcycle for a long time but this is very different to what I’m used to and I need to be out there but unfortunately the weather is not helping.”

As well as trying to learn the technical Sepang circuit, James Toseland was also riding an 800cc MotoGP bike for the first time, and was using Michelin tyres, Ohlins suspension and carbon brakes, all which are completely new to the Sheffield rider.

“The one thing I knew was going to a problem was the brand new track. Not only a brand new track, but also a difficult track to learn. I’m not familiar with the bike as well and I was quite tired after four or five laps because I was thinking about so much.

“I was thinking about the lines, about the bike and it was quite draining. It’s good for me to come to the tracks that I don’t know rather than doing it in a race weekend.

“The lap time that I’ve done compared to the leaders the first time on a track like this is normal.  I’d watched the GP here a few weeks ago but you can never see the undulation, the blind corners and the bumps and that’s really where experience comes.

“There’s a couple of right-handers that tighten up at the end which are really technical to know you’re corner speed before you actually turn into the last part.

“I was getting to grips with it pretty well and when I went out on a new set of tyres I went a second quicker straightaway and was starting to get used to how the bike felt when it rained.”

Asked what his first impression of the Yamaha 800cc machine he said: “The bike is great at the moment. I was just getting down to a lap time where you need to be pushing slightly to do that, but I was still two seconds off the other guys and until I get to that time I don’t know exactly what the bike does. But for my pace everything is working pretty well.”

Asked if he thought it was true the belief that riders graduating from the 250 class will be in a better position than riders switching from World Superbikes, the former Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider said: “The weight of the bike is the biggest thing for me.

“The stopping distances are unbelievable. I’m literally scaring myself really to actually brake that late to what I’m used to and you are still comfortable.

“It’s actually just programming you’re mind to find the limits of what the braking, acceleration and turning is capable of. The bike is quite light and for the first couple of laps I was really aggressive trying to change direction and you don’t need half that kind of force. All in all it was finding out what the bike was capable of.”

James Toseland said he doesn’t anticipate having to make drastic changes to his riding style to suit the 800 MotoGP machines.

“Not too drastic. Just learning the limits of what the bike can do with less weight and carbon brakes. The capabilities of the braking are a lot more than what I’m used to.

“I was just starting to enjoy riding the bike a bit because the first few laps it was so alien. Everything was so alien, you name it and everything was different.

“One day I will jump on this Yamaha quite soon and it will feel like my bike. Not like I’ve borrowed somebody else’s and that how it feels at the moment. Its just familiarity of how the bike completely works.

“The time will come when I can concentrate on going fast, instead of concentrating on wondering where I can brake and wonder how much I can accelerate or where should I turn in?

“I’ve just done a morning and I’m quite tired just because I’ve been thinking about absolutely everything. At the moment I’m thinking about too many things because I’m not sure what’s going to happen at that point,” said James Toseland, who said he had no trouble sleeping the night before, despite the obvious excitement of making his MotoGP debut.

He added: “Sleeping wasn’t too bad because I had a bit of jet lag but I have been really excited about it for weeks before coming here. The team, Colin and Yamaha have all welcomed me into the family really, really well and they are going to give me everything they can to bridge this gap of a learning curve.

“This is what will really be helpful for me because I’ve got a lot to learn, and not much time to learn it. But with the people and the team they can reduce it a lot.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt