James Toseland got a major confidence boost in Jerez today when he posted the fifth fastest time to beat a host of big name MotoGP rivals including Valentino Rossi and reigning world champion Casey Stoner.
The British rider set his best time of 1.39.678 on a Michelin qualifying tyre on the last of his 91-lap stint today, which was within 0.4s of Nicky Hayden’s fastest time.
In what was a major boost for Toseland though was his eye-catching performance on Michelin’s race tyres. Toseland clocked one of the top six times today in race trim, and up until 2pm, only fellow Yamaha rider and seven-times world champion managed to lap faster than the 27-year-old.
His best time on race rubber of 1.40.768 was just 0.127s slower than Rossi, and slashed 0.5s off his best time set last November when he rode the 2007 version of Yamaha’s YZR-M1.
Toseland rode his new 2008 machine today, and at the end of the day he was only 0.049s slower than Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards, even though his bike was one of the slowest through the speed traps. Toseland is still using the conventional spring valve M1 motor, with his Tech 3 team still not expected to take delivery of the new improved pneumatic valve engine until the third race at the earliest.
With heavy rain forecast for the final two days, Toseland opted to run three qualifiers at the end of the day, which followed a 26-lap race simulation where lapped consistently in the 1.41 bracket.
Toseland and his team opted to complete the race simulation to check on fuel consumption for next month’s Spanish GP, not wanting their plans to be thwarted by rain either tomorrow or Monday.
Toseland said: “It is a massive boost for me and again it just shows how important track knowledge is. I’d been here in November and was able to put that experience to good use again, just like I did in Phillip Island last month. I’ve made a big jump in time on race and qualifying tyres compared to November.
"I’m happy to finish fifth quickest but to be second for most of the day on race tyres is more important for me. I also did a long run and was pleased with my consistency, because it wasn’t the best part of the day with the conditions pretty windy when I was out.
"But we wanted to get the race simulation completed so my team and Yamaha had some information on fuel consumption. That is important because then they know how much power we can have for the race.
"My best time on race tyres in November was a 1.41.2, so to do a 1.40.7 is really encouraging. I was also a lot faster on my qualifying tyres so that shows the progress I’m making with the team. The time has come from the new traction control system that I didn’t run in November, and a lot has come from me.
"I know how late I can brake and how the package reacts in certain situations. I can do things sub-consciously rather than wondering what is going to happen at that speed. When it is like that you can progress and go faster and faster.
"I’ve also got more confident with the qualifying tyres because it is just convincing myself how much I can push with that amount of grip. Everything is different to what you can do with the race tyre but I’m getting more confident. I just need to learn how much grip there is and how best to use it.”