MotoGP Sepang test: James Toseland buoyed by impressive MotoGP debut

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James Toseland ended his first MotoGP test in Sepang today in positive and confident mood as he lapped within 1.5s of world champion Casey Stoner’s fastest Malaysian GP time.

The double World Superbike champion ended a gruelling three-day test session with a best time of 2.03.550, which was just 1.2s slower than Valentino Rossi’s fastest Yamaha time in last month’s Sepang GP.

He broke into the 2.03 bracket for the first time today on lap 17 with a 2.03.921, and his best time was clocked on his next lap. He clocked a further ten laps in the 2.03 bracket and also completed his first long distance run as he continued to make big strides in adapting to the YZR-M1.

He ran 11 consecutive laps but aborted a planned 15-lap as he began to suffer lapses in concentration in searing hot temperatures.

In three days though, the 27-year-old managed to slash two seconds off his best from the opening day as he comfortable beat a Tech 3 team pre-test target time of 2.04.00.

“I am happy. I’ve gone a second a lap quicker each day, which is good progress and my race pace was not far off. To go from lapping in 2.06 to consistent 2.03s is good. Towards the end I was tired though. I was going to do a 15-lap run but I got 11 laps in and I was losing a bit of concentration on the straights and I thought there was no point in carrying on. Looking at everything, when I was doing 2.03s, I was about three-quarters-of-a-second to a second off race pace on average with everybody. If I’d have said before I came here with a new track that is over two minutes long, to be just under or over a second lap slower than the guys, I’d have been pretty happy, “Toseland told MCN.

Physically and mentally drained at the end of a punishing test, he added: “This was a difficult track in difficult conditions. It is hot out there. I’m a fit lad but when you go out on something that is unfamiliar and you are a little bit tense on and not really relaxed that much, it has really taken it out of me. I’m mentally tired because everything has been so new. I’m not riding this thing anywhere near its limits at the moment and I’ve got a lot of things to try and to change myself. But first impressions and first efforts I think everybody is pleased.”

Toseland barely changed a standard Yamaha set-up he was given on the first day, as he preferred to get accustomed to the bike. On the last day though he did begin to work through some tyre testing with Michelin. He didn’t run a soft Michelin qualifying tyre though for the first time and said: “We tested quite a few tyres and made some good improvements there. I never used a soft tyre. I wasn’t interested in a great lap time because I need a lot of time to get used to the bike and at this point in time the last thing I want to be doing is holding my breath for one lap. But we tested quite a few tyres and the lap time has come from me learning the track really with a bit better grip from the tyres. I didn’t make many changes to the bike at all. We got a pretty good standard set-up to just run through the tyres that they wanted to test. We just kept the base setting and only changed a little bit of pre-load but kept it pretty much standard. It was a completely standard Yamaha set-up and other than move the footrests and the handlebars to get me more comfortable we didn’t really change that much.”

Toseland was full of praise for Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards at the end of his debut test. Edwards finished the test with the fastest time on race rubber, and he was frequently offering advice to Toseland over the three days.

“Colin’s been excellent. Every now and again he comes and sits beside me giving me a few pointers and asking if I’ve got any questions. I knew he was going to be good but he has been really helpful, “said Toseland, who flew back to the UK tonight via Doha in Qatar, before preparing for his second test in Jerez that starts a week on Tuesday.

He said: “I’m looking forward to it. We have worked really, really well together and I’m really happy with it. I’m just trying to keep a low profile and do my own thing. There’s a lot to learn and still a lot to learn but that’s what I’m here for. We have got every chance to do well though and from the first test to do the times I’ve been doing I’m quite pleased. “I’ve got a long flight home and will be doing a lot thinking about the test. Obviously got all week to chill out before I go to Jerez and I’ll know more about the team and hopefully the weather will be ok because the South of Spain in November could be a bit iffy. It will be a bit easier in the cooler conditions but I’m really looking forward to it now because we have got off to a good start and we need to keep moving forward. We just need to keep moving in this direction and if we can pull a second a day everyday in Jerez we should be fine.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt