Assen MotoGP: James Toseland eyes first top six of 2009

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British rider James Toseland is confident he can mount a challenge for his first top six of a tough 2009 MotoGP campaign in Assen tomorrow.

The 28-year-old equalled his best qualifying result of the season in Holland this afternoon, the double World Superbike champion finishing ninth and just over one second adrift of pole-setter Valentino Rossi.

Toseland ended the session with a best time of 1.37.323 and he was just over 0.5s away from the top four as he continued to adapt to a radically different set-up on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1.

Placing more weight on the rear tyre, Toseland has looked much more comfortable on the new setting, which was suggested by top Yamaha engineers and Fiat Yamaha Team Director Masahiko Nakajima on the eve of the Dutch GP.

Toseland said: “I’m really happy even though I’m only ninth again on the grid. We’ve spent a lot of time working on the race setting with the new set-up and I’m feeling really confident on race tyres.

"The weight we’ve put on the rear is really helping the Bridgestone work and its helping keep load on the tyre. We put a bit more weight on the rear again today and we’re getting better rear grip.

"I’m just trying to work the rear tyre a lot more with that extra load on it and that means I can exit the corner a lot better.

"I’ve also got more stability going into the corner but in qualifying there was so much traffic that I got held up a bit otherwise I might have gained another couple of places.

"I had to roll off when I came across Toni Elias and that was a big shame because I’d just done my best first split of the whole session. Fingers crossed it will be dry tomorrow because I feel I’m getting close to where I need to be.”

Toseland claimed ninth on the grid for the last race in Catalunya and then made a disastrous start that cost him a top ten finish. He has worked hard to ensure he doesn’t suffer a repeat in tomorrow’s 26-lap race.

He added: “After Catalunya I’ve done about 15 practice starts this weekend because it is crucial that I get away to give myself a chance of a top six. I’m trying a slightly different clutch just to be a bit smoother because as I release the clutch it has been a bit aggressive in the first few races.”

Team-mate Colin Edwards boosted his hopes of a third MotoGP podium in Assen as his fifth equalled his previous best qualifying result at the second race in Japan.

The Texan, who clocked a best time of 1.36.760 to finish less than 0.4s off the front row, said: “It certainly wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be because at the start of the session I was in and out of the pits a lot making adjustments and normally that’s not a good sign.

"I’ve got a busy feeling on race tyres now I’m using the longer wheelbase. It puts a bit more weight on the front and while it’s not chatter I don’t feel I’m absorbing the bumps as well as I need to be.

"At certain times it feels like I’m skimming over the bumps, but despite that I’m pretty happy with my pace. I did a 37.3 on race tyres and for race pace that’s acceptable.

"I think low 1.37s or high 1.36s will be the pace if it stays dry, and I’m confident I can run those times. I put my head down on the softer rear tyre and on my last lap I managed to set my best time even though the hard front had eight laps on it.

"After eight or nine laps the front will start to lose that special feeling and I had a couple of slides on my last couple of laps and I wasn’t going to go any quicker than what I did.

"Considering that I’m happy to have equalled my best qualifying of the year, particularly as I feel we can make the bike better. I think we’re looking good for tomorrow because the fourth section has always been a bogey section for me and that’s where you can gain or lose a lot of time.

"On the Bridgestone’s it is unbelievable through that last section. They are just so stable you don’t get the handlebars shaking or flapping through the fast sections.

"Everything just rolls nice and smooth and I think we can get out there and fight at the front tomorrow.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt