Sepang test preview: James Toseland raring to start 2009

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James Toseland kicks off his second MotoGP campaign in Malaysia tomorrow (Thursday) in bullish mood as he prepares to debut the 2009 Yamaha YZR-M1.

After a week of relaxing and acclimitasing to the stifling Sepang humidity on the island resort of Langkawi for the last week, the British rider makes his ’09 debut in the first major winter test of the year.

Toseland’s previous winter test in Jerez at the end of November saw him ride a modified 2008 YZR-M1 in readiness for the revised machine Yamaha will roll out in ’09.

One key difference was a shorter wheelbase, and the new bike is even shorter as Yamaha seeks to improve rear grip and endurance from the Bridgestone rear tyre.
Adapting to the new bike will be key for Toseland this week, but he is just looking forward to getting back on a bike after the long winter lay-off.

“It seems like a long time since I was on the bike. I’ve only done a couple of days of testing since the last race, so I’ll need a bit of time to get up to speed and to blow off the cobwebs.

“I’ve got to admit that I’m really looking forward to riding the new bike. I knew what direction Yamaha have been wanting to go with Valentino’s information and I’m confident it will work for me.

“I’ve heard nothing but good reports about what the guys think and what Yamaha think the bike is capable of. I tried a shorter wheelbase bike before the break and while it did make it a bit nervous in the faster corners and a bit of a wheelie monster we were still making some progress.

“The new bike has basically been developed around Valentino’s comments and information on Bridgestone and that is going to be absolutely vital for me. With the Bridgestone’s being still new for some of us, being able to have Valentino’s information and knowledge will be invaluable.”

This week’s test will be only the second time that Toseland has used Bridgestone tyres and he added: “I couldn’t fault them at all in Jerez, especially the front tyre which really does give a lot of feel, particularly stability under braking.

“There is still a lot for me to learn about those tyres and how to get the best out of them. Part of the issue is convincing yourself just how much you can push them.

Toseland has also used the extended winter break – three tests were cancelled to save costs in the global economic crisis – to undertake a rigorous training schedule.

“Physically I feel great, as good as I ever have done. I’ve concentrated on losing a little bit more weight to help next season because that is crucial when you go up against some of the smaller and lighter riders who have come up from 250s.

“You’ve got to be on top of your game mentally and physically for every second against these guys so I feel I’ve prepared myself as best as I can for this stage of the year.

“I’ve done personal bests in the running and cycling challenges I’ve set myself so that shows I’m in good shape.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt