Ducati Fila's Toseland Returns To Form in Time For Brands Hatch Bologna (Italy), Monday 26th July: This weekend's British Round of the 2004 World Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch in Kent sees a welcome return to form for Ducati Fila rider...
Ducati Fila's Toseland Returns To Form in Time For Brands Hatch
Bologna (Italy), Monday 26th July: This weekend's British Round of the 2004 World Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch in Kent sees a welcome return to form for Ducati Fila rider James Toseland, hot off the heels of a determined performance at Laguna Seca two weeks back.
The 23-year-old from Sheffield, an enthusiastic and skilled pianist in his spare time, bounced back to the top of the points standings with a fourth and a second place at the US Round, but it was his performance, rather than the actual results achieved, that made onlookers sit up and take notice.
Toseland, whose only win this season has come in the Valencia opener, dug in his heels to keep Ducati Fila team-mate Regis Laconi at bay in the first counter, and then hounded eventual winner Vermeulen (Honda) all the way to finish runner-up in the second race.
We took this opportunity to catch up with Toseland to quiz him about his Laguna Seca performance, the changes that have enabled him to return to being a front-runner and his views on the Brands Hatch race.
HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER YOUR GRITTY PERFORMANCE AT LAGUNA SECA?
Quite relieved really that I was able to do what I am able to do on a bike again. It was a good performance. If I ride well and hard then I'm happy with myself. To come back from second to leading the championship again was my main aim but the first race with Laconi has really sparked off quite a few people's imagination and it's been quite nice to be honest. I know I have struggled a bit with the bike but on the Sunday I just dug deep and pulled my finger out and got some decent results that kept me in touch with the championship. It was nice to prove we had the capabilities to run at the front and pass people and it was a very positive weekend for both myself and the team.
DID YOU AND REGIS HAVE A TALK ABOUT YOUR RACE 1 CLASH AFTER?
Not really, there was nothing to sort out to be honest. There was nothing dangerous about the passing manoeuvres, it was aggressive, it was close and we touched a couple of times but that's racing, that's what it's all about and that's what people enjoy watching. I was at Mallory Park the other weekend for the BSB race, walking over the bridge with the public and someone shouted out: "Don't overtake him there because he'll have you off the edge!". Little things like that make an impression because people appreciate that kind of riding; they appreciated it from Fogarty, he was a battler and I've always dug deep but wasn't in a position to stuff it up a few people this year. But now the bike's at a certain stage, we're actually able to ride this way.
WHAT EXACTLY HAS CHANGED ON THE 999F04 TO MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPIER WITH IT?
We've been playing around with it to get some feeling. Basically we just shortened the bike through the swing-arm, we made some modifications on the rear shock from race 1 to race 2 to help the grip, we got new handlebar clamps to bring the handlebars closer in to get more feeling for the front, we dropped the forks through to make the front a little bit higher, just bits and bobs. On previous weekends when we'd tried this we went in circles, but at Laguna Seca everything just got better and better. The first race wasn't perfect with the rear grip but when we'd made the change I was able to ride lap 1 to the last lap with very consistent times and keep up with Chris Vermeulen who was riding really well.
VERMEULEN AND THE HONDA HAVE WON THE LAST THREE RACES AND ARE A POWERFUL COMBINATION AT THE MOMENT...
I think Laguna was an awakening for Ducati because the performance of Vermeulen and the Fireblade was a little unexpected. I know Ducati haven't put that much development into the bike from last year to this year, but it' s certainly been a bit of a shock. Having said that, I know my bike is as good as that Fireblade at the moment and it's up to me to win these races. But obviously now we need to think about upping our game and developing as quick as Honda. There's no reason why we can't, but everyone now needs to dig deep to get this championship wrapped up.
WHAT SORT OF A RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH THE BRANDS HATCH TRACK?
It's good. Brands Hatch is my home track and there will be a lot of pressure and a lot of expectation not only from everyone else but from myself as well. I look forward to it, it's always one of those weekends when you get to Sunday night and get two good results and have a big deep breath and think thank god that's over and done with. But primarily I have had good results there, I beat all the World Superbike boys there last year, finishing third behind the wild-cards in race 2. I know we can go fast round there and I'm looking forward to getting out on Friday.
FOR MANY YEARS FOGARTY WAS THE CROWD FAVOURITE AT BRANDS, FOLLOWED BY HODGSON. NOW IN A WAY YOU HAVE TAKEN OVER THAT MANTLE.
I've just been fortunate to follow the path of those riders, but now it's got to the stage when I'm in the best team, I've got the best package and I'm leading the championship. It makes the job easier, but it's always nice to know that everything you've got is down to you.
WHAT PARTICULAR SET-UP DO YOU NEED FOR BRANDS? IT'S ANOTHER VERY UNDULATING CIRCUIT, A BIT LIKE LAGUNA WITH UPS-AND-DOWNS AND LOTS OF COMPRESSIONS ON THE BIKE.
Hopefully the setting we've got from Laguna Seca and the things we've changed will mean that we're not going to be too far out as we go out, given the similar characteristics of the two circuits. It hasn't worked out that way in a couple of races this year, but now with the good feeling I've got, we can be on the pace first thing Friday morning.
WHAT PART OF THE BRANDS CIRCUIT GIVES YOU A PARTICULAR BUZZ AS YOU GO THROUGH IT?
Dingle Dell! The new Dingle Dell is not as good but it's still very exciting. It's dangerous.... I'm a bit sick in that respect, danger kind of gives me a buzz!
AND THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF THE TRACK?
Surtees is a very tricky corner before you go onto the back straight, but there isn't one corner where I think 'I can't get round this one'. Certainly Surtees is critical to get right...
BRANDS HATCH IS THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN FOR WORLD SUPERBIKE IN A WAY. WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE COME THERE AND WHY SHOULD THEY BE THERE THIS WEEKEND?
They should come because they've got some good British riders who they can hopefully watch doing well. Like myself, Walker, Haslam; Leon's not going to be 100% fit with his broken hand but he did win a British Superbike Championship race there this year. At Brands you're close to the track, you can see a lot, there's a fantastic atmosphere, and hopefully the weather will be nice. It's just a great event, to see the bikes and the racers so close is what Brands Hatch is all about.