Taunts inflame Toseland's desire to be world No 1

After a disastrous defence of his World Superbike crown, Britain's top rider has swapped Ducati for Honda and is determined to blow everyone away. By Gary James

At just 25, James Toseland knows far more about pain than is right for a young man of his age. He learnt about the physical kind six years ago when he crashed and broke his thigh, an injury so agonising that at times he wanted to shoot himself to end the torment.

Now he also has an intimate relationship with emotional pain - the kind that comes when you win your first world championship, only to have it ripped away the next season by a faster, better prepared rival. But perhaps even harder to bear are the barbs of sports fans when they turn on you.

Toseland became the youngest World Superbike champion when he won the 2004 title for the Ducati Xerox team. But he had a bad season last year and slumped to fourth in the table. At mid-season a Motor Cycle News reader dismissed the Yorkshireman as no better than riders competing in the second tier British Superbike series. The taunt still jars with Toseland - even though he has since found a new team and a new bike, and is a serious contender in this year's world title battle, which starts in Qatar tomorrow.

"I would like to invite whoever wrote that, or whoever thinks badly about my performances or my commitment, to the Isle of Man to do my training regime to get myself prepared to win a world championship for myself, for my family, and for this country," Toseland seethes.

You can feel the hurt as we sip coffee at London City Airport shortly before he flies to Qatar.

"It makes me laugh," he continues, when clearly it does not. "It's our own people, the British people, saying this about a British competitor. They're sat at home, they've turned the computer on and they've typed a letter about someone they've never met, and criticised them like it's one of their worst enemies. I don't understand the mentality of that kind of person and I never will.

"It's sacrifice and dedication that you need in this sport. We put our life on the line every weekend to fulfil our dreams. "

Clearly top sports personalities - even if they are in an income bracket that prompts them to move to an offshore tax haven - are as sensitive as the rest of us.

But this roller-coaster of experiences, rather than cowing Toseland, appears to have toughened him. "I want to get that trophy back in the UK," he says.

"It's bugged me losing my No 1 plate. But it hasn't done me any harm, because I want it back. I get more determined every year, and I feel really up for the 2006 season."

Toseland has signed to ride a 1,000cc Honda Fireblade for the Dutch Ten Kate team, a group of inventive engineers who build the world's fastest superbikes. Their Fireblade finished second last year in the hands of Australian Chris Vermeulen, who has now won promotion to Suzuki's MotoGP team.

In pre-season testing, Toseland had to adjust to a four-cylinder bike after riding twin-cylinder machines for the past six years, the last five of them on a Ducati.

The biggest difference in riding the two bikes is that the factory Ducati has a traction control system: the rider can open the throttle fiercely, but sophisticated electronics prevent the rear wheel from spinning out of control. Traction control has not yet filtered down to the privately run Ten Kate operation, however.

"I got very dependent on it," Toseland admits. "It was predictable and safe. The electronics controlled little slides and moments, and it was a lot less to think about.

"Now it's all back to the right wrist and controlling the bike through your body and your own feel for the grip. It's not necessarily a bad thing: we can still do the times."

Competition in this year's championship will be fiercer than for many years, bolstered by the arrival of the MotoGP refugees Troy Bayliss and Alex Barros. Bayliss has been impressive in testing for Ducati, for whom the Australian won the superbike title in 2001, and the Spanish rider Barros, 35, a veteran of 251 grands prix, will handle a Honda for Switzerland's Klaffi team.

But the biggest danger remains the reigning champion, the Australian Troy Corser, who again competes on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 of Belgium's Alstare Corona squad.

Nottingham's Chris Walker could also compete for podium positions on a Kawasaki, and his 21-year-old fellow Briton Craig Jones, makes his World Superbike debut with Carl Fogarty's Foggy-Petronas team.

This is the biggest season of Toseland's career and if he can get into the top three by the season's end he will have proved he deserves a chance with the big boys in MotoGP. Maybe such a performance would open doors to greater things with Honda, who field no less than six bikes on the MotoGP grid.

The Big Three in this year's WSB

Troy Corser AUSTRALIA, AGE 34, ALSTARE SUZUKI

226 WSB races, 31 wins, 97 podiums, 34 pole positions, two world titles - no current rider can match this Aussie's pedigree

Troy Bayliss AUSTRALIA, AGE 36, DUCATI XEROX

Hungry for success after a three-year victory drought in MotoGP. Ducati seem remotivated after their drubbing by Suzuki last year

Noriyuki Haga JAPAN, AGE 30, YAMAHA ITALY

Fearless and fast crowd favourite, who has twice finished second in the WSB. Could bring bike giants Yamaha their first WSB title

WSB dates

Tomorrow: Losail, Qatar

Mar 5: Phillip Island, Aus

April 23: Valencia

May 7: Monza, Italy

May 28: Silverstone

June 25: Misano, Italy

July 23: Brno, Cz Rep

Aug 6: Brands Hatch

Sept 3: Assen, Neth

Sept 10: Lausitzring, Ger

Oct 1: Imola, Italy

Oct 8: Magny-Cours, Fr

Oct 22: TBA, South Africa

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions