James Toseland’s preparations for his debut season in MotoGP took a major step forward after he recorded the third-fastest time in the latest test.
The reigning World Superbike champion lapped the Phillip Island circuit in Australia on his Tech 3 Yamaha in a best time of one minute 29.754 seconds to end the test just 0.018secs behind current MotoGP champion Casey Stoner.
Stoner was quickest on the dominant Marlboro Ducati with Repsol Honda rider and 2006 champion Nicky Hayden second but it was Toseland’s stunning ride which stood out.
The 27-year-old has consistently improved with every ride on his new 800cc machine but admitted that his knowledge of the undulating Phillip Island – a regular on the World Superbike calendar – enabled him to match the pace-setters for the first time.
He said: “It’s been a great reference point for me to ride a MotoGP bike for the first time at a circuit I know well.
“This has enabled me to really get the feeling I need from the bike and understand it much better. The team have worked brilliantly and I feel that they really understand what I need.
“To finish third on the final timesheet is a real bonus for me and most importantly it earns respect from everyone concerned with MotoGP.”
Toseland is aiming to be the first British rider to win a premier class Grand Prix since the late Barry Sheene in 1981 and insists that his latest performance has left him – and his team – in good spirits.
He said: “I will sleep well tonight on the plane after this performance.
“Even one of my mechanics said that it is so good to see an English rider at that end of the timesheets rather than at the other end. And the best thing is I can only get faster and stronger.
“I’m still waiting for some new parts from Yamaha, so there is still plenty of room for improvement, also from Michelin. Everybody is working hard and I’m riding on a wave at the moment.”
Toseland will take to the grid for the first time on March 9 when the first-ever floodlit race takes place in Qatar.