Toseland set for star status after Ducati deal

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The Independent Online

James Toseland is said to have signed a secret deal with Ducati that will make him a favourite to win the World Superbike championship in 2004.

The Yorkshire rider, who won his first superbike race this year with Britain's GSE Racing team, declined to comment yesterday. But a Ducati spokesman said: "The chances of James Toseland riding for us in World Superbikes are highly likely.''

Ducati are expected to announce the move at the final round of the championship in France on 19 October. It would give the 22-year-old the chance to become Britain's third world superbike champion in the history of the competition after the four-times champion Carl Fogarty and the current No 1, Neil Hodgson.

Ducati want to promote Hodgson, 29, to the MotoGP series. The switch would see British riders competing for podium positions in motorcycle racing's two main championships. Hodgson may not know his fate until the MotoGP champion, Valentino Rossi, decides whether to leave Honda and join either Yamaha or Ducati.