James Toseland inadvertently played a key role in the thrilling podium fight between bitter rivals Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in the recent Japanese MotoGP race.
It emerged after the classic encounter that Rossi appeared to have jumped the start, videos posted on the internet clearly showing the Italian moved while the red lights were on.
Had Race Direction enforced the letter of the law, the best scrap of a largely dull and boring 2010 campaign would never have materialised, as Rossi should have been penalised with a ride through penalty.
But Race Director Paul Butler said discretion was now exercised in dealing with potential jump starts following controversial incidents involving Toseland last season.
Toseland was penalised for jump-starting twice in 2009, the second offence in Phillip Island deemed way too harsh as the British rider barely moved.
As a result, a more lenient stance was adopted for 2010 and Butler told MCN: “The rule says you must not move when the red light is on, but we’re not so pedantic that we’ll penalise people for what looks like an engagement of a gear or the slightest movement. If they don’t actually take a leap and cross the line we don’t punish them.”
Butler admitted Rossi clearly moved when the red light was on but said the more lenient approach came after Toseland’s harsh treatment and he added:
“There was a lot of debate as a result of the Toseland incident and it was regarded as overly severe. Since that we the judgement call as to whether they actually gained an advantage by jumping.”
Rossi said he was aware he moved but at no stage did he fear he’d be punished.
The Italian said: “When I released the clutch, the bike moved by one centimetre. I always make the same procedure but maybe this time the clutch engaged a bit more. I didn’t cross the line or touch the line with the tyre.”