British rider James Toseland took full advantage of a special wet Michelin tyre test last week as he posted some of the fastest times on a rain-lashed first day of action in Mugelllo.
Toseland tested in wet and intermediate conditions last week at Michelin’s Clermont-Ferrand headquarters and the Tech 3 Yamaha rider clearly benefited as he was fifth quickest in this afternoon’s session, which was run in conditions that at times resembled a monsoon.
For long periods, the 27-year-old led the session and just 24 minutes had elapsed when he first climbed to the top of the timesheets with a lap of 2:06.190.
Just four minutes and two laps later, the double World Superbike champion moved a massive 2.585secs clear of the field, as he seemed to get faster as the appalling conditions worsened.
Toseland continued to lead the way until the final stages as conditions marginally improved but his best of 2:02.412 left him fifth. He ended the day 13th overall on combined times with the best times of the day clocked on a drying track this morning.
Toseland said much of his success was down to a new shorter wheelbase set-up that he is using for the first time to improve rear grip.
The setting is close to that used by Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and team-mate Colin Edwards for most of the 2008 season, and Toseland said: “I’d done a few laps on a MotoGP bike back in 2004 when Ducati gave me a present for winning the World Superbike title, so at least I knew which way the track goes.
“I’ve really noticed at the last three races that have been brand new for me that it is a big disadvantage and it was nice to come somewhere a little bit familiar. On a new track I have always felt one step behind and that has been frustrating, but I’ve got a good set-up now.
“I’ve got the shorter wheelbase that the other Yamaha guys have been using and it has given me much more confidence with the rear, especially in the wet conditions.
“That extra weight on the rear makes a big difference and there’s a lot more contact patch and that gives me the confidence to push. I was quite confident in the rain because I was pretty fast on Sunday morning in China, so we’ve obviously fallen on a good base setting for the rain. I’m really happy with the session and at the end I was a bit disappointed to drop out of the top three.”
Toseland said conditions this afternoon were bordering on becoming too dangerous as large patches of standing water saw riders aquaplaning at close to 200mph on the start/finish straight.
Toseland said: “At one point I thought they would have to stop the session. There was a lot of standing water and one time I was going down the straight pinned in sixth gear and the bike just flicked sideways as I hit the crest.
“That’s when conditions started getting borderline because there was so much water no wet tyre in the world could disperse it all.”