Toseland hopes to secure third spot and new team

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James Toseland's hopes of securing third position in the World Superbike Championship improved yesterday when the HM Plant Ducati rider took provisional pole position for tomorrow's races in Italy.

Toseland's future is in doubt because his team is leaving the series at the end of the season. Neil Hodgson, who won the championship, is set to move to MotoGP, so there could be a slot available for Toseland on the official factory Ducati team. But in terms of bargaining power he must not finish lower than third in the championship, and would like to close the gap on Ruben Xaus, of Spain, in second place.

But Xaus, Hodgson's Ducati Fila team-mate, has a 51-point advantage over Toseland with two races to come tomorrow before the final round at Magny-Cours in France.

Toseland set the fastest time of 1min 49.011sec with Regis Laconi second fastest on the NCR Ducati. The Frenchman, who is 19 points behind Toseland, is his biggest threat for third place.