James Toseland’s hopes of bowing out of MotoGP in style suffered a massive blow today in Malaysia, the British rider cutting a disconsolate figure in the Sepang paddock after he qualified in a disastrous 16th place.
Struggling to find rear grip with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1, the 28-year-old slumped to his worst qualifying result of the year and finished a massive 3.010s adrift of Valentino Rossi’s stunning pace. Toseland only managed to outpace struggling Hungarian Gabor Talmacsi on the Scot Honda, his best lap of 2.03.528 though a massive 0.440s slower than Hayate’s Marco Melandri in 15th.
Aleix Espargaro, making only his third appearance on the Pramac Ducati in the Far East, was 0.7s faster than Toseland as the British rider struggled throughout. He only clocked his best lap on his last lap to open up a gap on perennial backmarker Talmacsi, but Toseland was 1.4s slower than Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Colin Edwards.
Toseland, who will return to World Superbikes in 2010 with Yamaha’s factory team, said: “It has been a really tough weekend and qualifying down in 16th is well below my expectations. This has always been a tough track for me and I wasn’t expecting an easy weekend, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as tough as this.
"I’m struggling to get grip on the edge of the rear tyre to give me the confidence to push harder. We’ve tried a lot of different options to try and improve the setting but it doesn’t seem to matter what we change, I don’t have enough grip on the rear. It is a problem mid-corner and also when I first open the throttle.
"Tomorrow is going to be tough with the heat, but we might just have to gamble with a setting for the race and see what happens. Being so far back on the grid means it will be difficult, but I never give up and I’ll be giving it my all tomorrow.”