MotoGP Qatar test: James Toseland shines in night test

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British rider James Toseland was one of the shining stars on a historic night for MotoGP, with the first official night test held under floodlights in Qatar.

Tech 3 Yamaha rider Toseland posted the fifth best time overall and fourth best on race tyres after he’d been lying in an impressive second fastest until the last hour.

Late charges by Jorge Lorenzo, Randy de Puniet and Andrea Dovizioso dropped James Toseland to fifth, but he was still one of the most consistent riders on race tyres during the opening day of testing that ran between 6pm and 1am.

James Toseland logged a best time of 1:56.251 in a 90-lap stint, and he also completed a full race 22-lap race simulation, despite still being troubled by the severely sprained right ankle he suffered in a high-side in Jerez earlier this month.

Evaluating a new YZR-M1 chassis and new Michelin front tyre for the first time in his distance run, his best lap in the simulation was a 1:56.610.

He managed to stay within a range of 0.8secs throughout and told MCN: “I’m really pleased with the consistency. The new chassis is a big step.

“It has better braking stability and also finishes the corner tyre better. With the new Michelin front it felt a lot better.

“The new tyre hardly dropped off at all in the long run, though we have still got a bit of work to do with the rear. I lost a bit of drive grip after five laps on the long run, Michelin has got some ideas. But the front was brilliant.

“This track really stresses the front but it hung in there all the way through. I’m happy with my times.

“This is another track I know well and I’ve managed to come out and get a good feeling straightaway. It’s a massive difference when you don’t have to learn the track.”

James Toseland’s Tech 3 team made the perfect judgement on fuel consumption in his distance run as he ran out of fuel at turn four, facing the agony of pushing his bike through the deep gravel trap with his damaged right foot.

The test was also James Toseland’s first chance to evaluate the Losail International Circuit while fully floodlit.

He was one of five riders who tested in Qatar in November when only the first three corners were lit and he said: “They have done an amazing job. The lights are really impressive. 

“There are a couple of places where you get a slight issue with shadows but they are only in the really, really fast parts and its not like you think somebody is going to dive underneath you. If they do at that point they are pretty brave.

“I had to do my race simulation with a rain mask on because the humidity came up and there was this haze. The moisture was getting on the inside of my helmet.

“It is best to learn things like that now rather than get to the race and have that problem with it when I’m fighting for positions.”

The test is a dress rehearsal for the season’s opening race on March 9, 2008. The opening day was dominated by reigning world champion Casey Stoner, who logged a best of 1:55.330.

At one point early on he was over three seconds clear, and still ended up 0.6secs clear of second placed Lorenzo as he smashed his 2007 lap record by 1.2seconds.

Stoner’s best lap on race tyres was faster than his qualifying best last season, and was only 0.3secs slower than Valentino Rossi’s pole position.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt