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2011-01-25 "Toseland talks"

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Toseland talks

The Autodromo di Monza was the setting on Monday 17 January for the official launch of BMW Motorrad Italia’s Superbike team, which will compete in the 2011 World Superbike Championship with riders James Toseland and Ayrton Badovini. Prior to the important pre-season tests at Portimao circuit in Portugal, double WSBK champion Toseland spoke exclusively to BMW Motorrad about his hopes for the forthcoming championship year

After a disappointing 2010, are you more fired up than ever to exorcise your demons and make amends in 2011?
On paper, 2010 was a disappointing year for me, but there are reasons why that was the case. Injuries played a huge part in the way the year went and were a real problem all season. I had two big crashes at the first round in Phillip Island which really knocked me back. When I recovered from that I put together some good results, finishing on the podium and fighting for race wins regularly, but all that was then halted by the big crash in Monza, where I had a lucky escape. The injuries I walked away with were bad but it could have been a lot worse. Still, racing has always been on a knife edge and that’s why we love it. You have to take the good with the bad and move on and keep fighting. I am going into 2011 ready to win; I feel fit, I have been training harder than ever and I am determined to fight for the championship. My goals haven’t changed and I know what I can do.

How important was it for you to sign for the BMW Motorrad Italia team once you knew that factory support was in place?
There were two stand-out points which pushed me to the deal. Once I realized that there was factory support I became extremely interested. Everyone in the paddock can see how much potential the BMW has when everything comes together as a package. That is something which really excites me. We have so much room to develop and improve while the other machines in the championship have completed their development cycle. The BMW definitely has the potential to push the bar up another notch. The second major factor was the personnel. When I won the championship back in 2004 for Ducati I had a great team around me – everyone knew what I needed and understood me as a person. Now I am back with those guys again and it feels great. I know they understand what is required. The combination of great machinery, massive development potential and intelligent personnel made the decision to sign quite simple. I know what they can do and they know what I can do. I am so excited about what we can do here.

How did you find it returning to the WSBK paddock last season?
World Superbikes has always been a highly competitive championship, with some of best riders in the world. I knew that I wasn’t going to come back to the championship and just win again – that would have been an insult to the quality of riders and machinery competing in it. There is a nice blend of experience and youth in this championship and the mini battles that develop throughout the season you just don’t get anywhere else. It’s great for the up-and-coming riders like Badovini to pitch their talents against riders who have competed at the highest level of the sport. The strength in depth will be what makes this championship fantastic in 2011 and I think the racing will be the best it has ever been.

You’re one of four BMW riders on the grid now – and you’ve beaten Corser and Haslam regularly. How hungry are you to get back that winning feeling?
Winning is what I’m all about. I wouldn’t walk onto the grid if I didn’t feel like I could win. For me it’s not about beating the guys on BMWs, it’s about beating whoever is at the front. BMW has a strong rider line-up this year that’s for sure and I have no doubt that BMW will hit the top step of the podium in 2011. With every race you don’t win, that hunger to succeed grows and grows – that’s why I can’t wait for Phillip Island because I know what’s possible if everything falls into place. Being the top rider on a BMW would be a great feeling – given the caliber of riders – but being the rider on the top step of the podium is what it’s all about.

Top-level racing is a small world. How much of a bonus is it to be reunited with many of the team you worked with in 2004 when you won your first WSBK title?
I have had the privilege of working with some of the best teams and personnel in the business and there is no doubt that this team is up at the top of the list when it comes to experience, knowledge and understanding. These guys guided me to the championship back in 2004 and the bike preparation was second to none. They understand racing and what makes a good race bike, so I have every confidence in them to provide me with the best package possible in 2011.

The RR race bikes were quickly put together for the first Portimao tests. Do you feel there is enough time to develop the whole package so that it is competitive in time for Phillip Island?
We used the Portimao test as a shakedown test really. The bikes weren’t finished but we needed some track time for me to get an understanding of the RR’s characteristics. I am happy with what the guys managed to put together in such little time. When we test again in late January on a dry track we will be able to gauge where we are and what needs to be done. When I rode the bike for the first time it was wet but the package felt great. Wet conditions are a great way to find out the strength of the chassis, electronics and power delivery, and I felt comfortable from the first lap. The stability was of the bike in tricky conditions was really impressive too. Obviously I don’t know where other teams are at but I am confident in our testing schedule and that we will be ready to compete from the first round. If we want to compete for the championship then we have to be ready.

How are you and Ayrton Badovini working together as team-mates so far?
He is a great guy, really down to earth and unassuming. He keeps himself to himself and just gets on with the job. There is no doubting his talent and ability that’s for sure and I think we will have a great year working together. We can both bring things to the team which should help with the project. For sure he is making a big step up into this class but it’s clear to see how talented he is. BMW has done a great job with him, allowing him to test the factory bike while he was still competing in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup championship. Having ridden the bike before and having a good understanding of what makes the BMW work as a stock package, he should be pushing for good finishes. I have a lot of experience from riding a range of different machines and he has a good understanding of what works on the BMW, so I believe we will be pushing each other this year for sure.

What are the most important things you feel still need ‘sorting out’ with the race bike between now and Phillip Island?
There isn’t anything major. I am still to test the bike in full race trim but the initial feedback indicates that we don’t have anything major to do. The guys have taken on board my initial comments and have since headed back to the workshops to continue work on the bikes. When we test again in Portugal we will have a better understanding of the specific areas we need to improve on but at the moment I am really happy with everything. We will have a much better view on our position once we have completed the next set of tests.

Who do you think the top three threats will be for next year’s WSBK title?
Undoubtedly Max Biaggi is one of them. He did an amazing job this season and fully deserved the title. Nobody could match his level of consistency and ultimately that’s what wins races and championships. I think Checa will be another guy to watch out for this season. He has a lot of experience and will get good support from Ducati, despite the factory team pulling out. After that I don’t think you can name a third person. The field is as strong as ever with 10 riders all in with a shout of winning races. Ten Kate and Yamaha are proven race winners; Kawasaki look like they have a great package for 2011; and here at BMW we have four riders who are more than capable of winning races, so I think we are in for an interesting year. The racing will be undoubtedly close and fast. It will be easy next season to have a bad day and finish out of the top ten. That’s what it’s like – every second counts and mistakes are not an option.

What’s your main driving force going into 2011?
To show what I can do when I’m fully fit. I have proven throughout my whole career that I have the ability to beat the best. When I won the championship back in 2007 I was racing against Troy Bayliss in his prime and on a very strong Ducati. It doesn’t get much harder than that, let me tell you. It’s a pleasing feeling to be starting something new with a great team on a great bike. I just want to do well for the team. On a personal basis there is no doubt that 2011 will be a huge year for me and a challenge that I am really looking forward to.

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