Motorcycling: Toseland makes a splash in Italian rain

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The Independent Online

James Toseland, buffeted by a 12th-place finish and a crash in his last two races, yesterday bounced back strongly to finish fifth fastest on a streaming-wet track in practice for the Italian MotoGP round here, even though his fastest time in the first session was only good enough for 13th position overall.

The British rider completed less than a dozen laps in the morning's one-hour session on drying roads, but gained in confidence on his Tech 3 Yamaha the harder the rain streamed down on the 3.26-mile circuit.

Toseland said: "I've just come off the back of a wet-tyre test session at Michelin's private track at Clermont-Ferrand in France, and my setting is now giving me a lot more grip in the rain."

Toseland is hoping that the forecast of dry weather for today's qualifying session and tomorrow's 23-lap race will prove correct. "We need dry-track time in qualifying to get the right setting, because it would be difficult to try and do that on a new track in Sunday's warm-up session."

Mugello is the fourth consecutive new circuit on which Toseland has had to compete in his first season in MotoGP, and the strain of trying to find the quickest line at speeds of up to 200mph and analyse the 800cc Yamaha's behaviour is taking its toll on results.

Early in the season the 27-year-old Yorkshireman held a strong sixth place in the points table, but as he has hit new terrain he has dropped to ninth position. Now he wants to get back to a top-six finish to prepare for his appearance in front of 100,000 home fans at the British GP at Donington Park on 22 June, when he will try for a podium place.

The Kawasaki rider John Hopkins set the fastest time of the day, with the Rizla Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi second. Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha) set the 10th fastest time.

Scott Redding, 15, from Quedgeley, Gloucestershire, finished second in provisional qualifying for the 125cc race. He will try to confirm his second front-row starting position of the year in final qualifying today.

Elsewhere, on the Isle of Man, Guy Martin has warned "King of the Mountain" John McGuinness that he is ready to steal his crown after twice topping the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy practice timesheets just ahead of his rival.

Martin – who won best newcomer in 2004 – admitted practice will count for nothing when the first TT race of 2008 gets under way today. "It is nice to see my name at the top and it is nice to get ahead of McGuinness, but he won't be fazed by that and neither will I," he said. "He has got the better of me too often and I can't keep coming second to him."