Motorcycling: Coughing Toseland suffers early hiccup in Portugal

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The Independent Online

Britain's James Toseland yesterday tried Yamaha's latest pneumatic-valve engine for the first time, in practice for tomorrow's Portuguese round of the championship.

Toseland finished 13th fastest, 1.5 seconds behind the quickest rider, the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda. This was Toseland's debut on the 2.6-mile Estoril circuit, which features the slowest corner in MotoGP and a kilometre-long straight where speeds can touch 200mph.

Toseland's fellow Yamaha riders, Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards, demonstrated the new engine's potential, taking second and third in the afternoon's dry practice session.

"James's time is slower, partly because he's not yet getting on to the finish straight fast enough," his manager, Roger Burnett, said. "If we get dry conditions tomorrow morning, we could get into the top six in qualifying in the afternoon."

Toseland and Edwards have had to use Yamaha's 2007 engine in the first two rounds while Rossi has benefited from Yamaha's latest equipment from the start of the season.

Toseland is sixth in the championship table, but his entry into MotoGP has been far from easy. His bike has been out-gunned along the straights and he was affected by bronchitis in Spain. The Yorkshireman still finished sixth in Jerez.

"I'm still coughing like I smoke 40 cigarettes a day, but apart from that I'm feeling normal," he said.

Toseland's robust riding style has brought complaints from the Rizla Suzuki rider Chris Vermeulen. Toseland is unrepentant. "I'm paid to pass people – that's what I'm employed to do," he said.

Yesterday's practice brought little relief for the world champion, the Marlboro Ducati rider Casey Stoner, who is fourth in the points table. He suffered a fall and finished seventh fastest, 0.7 seconds behind the championship leader, Pedrosa.