By Peter McLaren
A little after 2 o'clock on day two of the Sepang test saw an interesting battle develop on track, where double World Superbike champion James Toseland was catching double 250cc world champion Jorge Lorenzo, also a MotoGP rookie on a Michelin-shod M1.
After several laps locked on Jorge's rear wheel, and despite the Spaniard ending the day with a faster individual lap time, Toseland dived under Lorenzo through the second part of a left-right flick - then edged away from the factory rider, who pitted shortly after.
According to Toseland's Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal, that contest should be seen regularly during the 2008 season - and the Frenchman backs Toseland to keep pushing Lorenzo all the way.
"I saw James together with Lorenzo and this is what is pleasing me," Poncharal told Crash.net
. "Lorenzo is the 250cc world champion, James is the World Superbike champion, but Lorenzo has already had a two day test in Valencia. Their race pace was very close to each other and it is a very good comparison between them.
"I'd be lying if I said that nobody will be looking at who will be the best Michelin-Yamaha rookie, between James and Lorenzo," he admitted. "I personally think that I made the right choice and I trust James to challenge Lorenzo. Although everybody thinks Lorenzo is a bright star for the future, I am sure James will be right with him and hopefully in front of him."
Toseland went on to finish his first ever MotoGP test, and first visit to Sepang, half a second behind Lorenzo on race tyres, although the Spaniard jumped up the order further after a late run with a qualifying tyre - something that didn't impress Toseland's manager Roger Burnett.
"Lorenzo, I don't know if he's been asleep or not, but he'd finished and packed up for the day and now - after two hours of resting - has come back out to try and do a lap time," Burnett told Crash.net
at the end of the final day in Sepang. "Lap times at this point are just for vanity really. We're a bit too experienced for all that. We know that Qatar is the first race next year and having a strong result at Qatar is what we are working towards. It's not about the lap time here today."
Toseland's Tech 3 predecessor Sylvain Guintoli clinched the 2007 MotoGP rookie of the year title, although it was something of a hollow award since he was the only full time newcomer in the class. However, next season will be very different, with Honda rookies Andrea Dovizioso and Alex de Angelis set to fight Lorenzo and Toseland for what will be a hard-earned best newcomer prize.
"You have the top three guys from the 250cc class and the top guy from the World Superbike class. So the four newcomers are really exciting guys, they are all young and have a really high profile," said Poncharal. "Three of them are also from the south of Europe - Lorenzo, de Angelis and Dovizioso - but the good point about James, being from north of Europe, is that he is more cool headed. He doesn't get overexcited."