Motorcycling: Toseland overcomes crash to secure seat in second row

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The Independent Online

Britain's James Toseland bounced back from a painful crash yesterday to gain a second-row grid position in provisional qualifying for tomorrow's World Superbike championship round here.

The 25-year-old Yorkshireman dropped his Honda Fireblade at the slippery Brooklands turn, which caught out several other riders, and trapped his left leg under the bike. But he recovered rapidly and carved more than half a second from his previous best time on the circuit.

The championship leader Troy Bayliss came off his Xerox Ducati in the same place just seconds later, and was sportingly helped to his feet by Toseland. But Bayliss rebounded even more spectacularly, and set provisional pole time in 1 minute 27.011 seconds.

Toseland won at Silverstone in last year's British round of the superbike series and desperately needs wins this season if he is to peg back Bayliss's 78-point lead in the championship. And he is hoping that his team can give him the drive out of the final chicane that could deliver success in front of his home fans.

"It's a bottom-gear turn at 20mph, but if you can't get out of it quickly the problem is multiplied because you then can't catch the other guys until you get to the stadium section," Toseland explained yesterday. "We've had two difficult races at Valencia and Monza, so it's very important this weekend that I get points back. With the way I'm riding and the way the team is developing, there is a great chance that we could win the championship."

Traction control - an electronic device that prevents the rear wheel from spinning wildly - has become almost de rigueur on any serious contender for MotoGP or World Superbike honours.

Bayliss's Ducati boasts a highly sophisticated version - but Honda will not supply traction control to Toseland's privateer Ten Kate team until at least the next round of the championship at Misano on 25 June.

Its absence hurt Toseland on Valencia's long corners, when he had to cope with massive slides. But he hopes that the problem will not reoccur on Silverstone's simpler layout.

The 12-round, 24-race championship is turning into a battle between three World Superbike champions - Bayliss, who won the title in 2001, Toseland, the 2004 winner, and reigning champion Troy Corser, on the Suzuki GSXR1000.

And only two points behind Toseland is Alex Barros, the 35-year-old Brazilian who lost his place in MotoGP, but is proving a fast learner in his debut season on superbikes.

The Spanish rider Fonsi Nieto (Kawasaki) finished third in yesterday's qualifying, ahead of Japan's Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) and Toseland. Nottingham's Chris Walker (Kawasaki) finished ninth, and Virgin Mobile's Tommy Hill, making his debut, 12th.

Three riders to watch

* NORIYUKI HAGA (31 years old, Japan)

The "Samurai of Slide" could win - or crash spectacularly. Currently fifth place in the points table, only four behind James Toseland.

* CHRIS WALKER (34, Great Britain)

His Italian-entered PSG-1 Kawasaki isn't the best handling bike, but the fighting spirit of "The Stalker", as he is known, should put him among the points-scorers tomorrow afternoon.

* ALEX BARROS (35, Brazil)

The veteran of more than 200 grand prix races is currently displaying a teenager's passion in his debut superbike season.