MotoGP Phillip Island test: Track knowledge boosts James Toseland

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James Toseland put his vast experience of the Phillip Island circuit to good use today with the British rider making an impressive start to his fourth winter test in Australia.

The Tech 3 Yamaha rider clocked the fifth best time to leave the likes of Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, home favourite Chris Vermeulen and 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden trailing behind him.

Toseland, who beat Troy Bayliss in the second World Superbike race in Phillip Island just over a year ago, was making his MotoGP debut at the spectacular Aussie venue.
And he immediately found himself on the pace, dipping into the 1.32 bracket after just four laps.

He then reeled off a series of consistent times inside the 1.32 barrier, and clocked his best lap of 1.30.864 on the 49th lap of an 81-lap stint. His best lap was just 0.03s slower than team-mate Colin Edwards' best time on race tyres, with the American topping the timesheets having opted to run two Michelin qualifying tyres.

His best time was 0.7s slower than a dominant Casey Stoner, who was again untouchable in race trim as the Aussie bids to successfully defend his premier class crown in 2008.

Toseland's previous tests on the Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 had come inSepang and Jerez tracks at which the 27-year-old has little or no previous experience.

Coming to Phillip Island gave him the perfect chance to gauge his progress and after evaluating new Michelin tyres and an updated electronics package from Yamaha.

Toseland said: "The first few laps I was able to hit the exact same six inches of track and I got up to speed much quicker than I did in Sepang and Jerez. It was nice to be at the sharp end of the times.

"I didn't realise but track knowledge is even more important with these bikes to help things come together. When you can hit the same spot lap after lap without thinking about it then you can really concentrate on the bike set-up and that makes a big difference to help gradually improve.

"I've got a slight problem with entry to the fast corners. Just as I tip in I get a bit of chatter from the front. I'm losing quite a lot of time because of that problem because they are in such fast parts of the track.  I could make up quite a lot of time if it wasn't for that.

I'll try a new setting tomorrow morning to try and help before I do a race simulation. But it's nice to be doing decent lap times with a few problems. And I actually passed somebody on the brakes for the first time ever in MotoGP. I passed Chris Vermeulen going into the first corner turn which I was pretty proud of."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt