By Peter McLaren

James Toseland was encouraged to learn that he has collected exactly the same amount of points as future MotoGP race winner Troy Bayliss - and is comfortably ahead of future world champion Nicky Hayden's score - after the first seven races of his MotoGP career.

Bayliss, Hayden and Colin Edwards all joined MotoGP for 2003 - Bayliss and Edwards arriving, like Toseland, as World Superbike champions while Hayden was the reigning AMA Superbike champion.

Like Toseland, the trio had to adapt from production-based Superbikes to the harsh characteristics of a MotoGP machine - whilst also learning many new circuits - and are thus considered the best benchmark by which to measure the progress of Toseland against.

Although all three rode for factory teams - Bayliss at Ducati, Hayden at Honda and Edwards at Aprilia - satellite Yamaha rider Toseland also has the latest (2008-spec) machinery under him, something denied to World Superbike champion Neil Hodgson and team-mate Ruben Xaus in 2004.

After the first seven races of 2003, Bayliss had scored 53 points and held seventh in the world championship standings, exactly the same as Toseland in 2008. Hayden was holding eleventh with 38 points, while Edwards - on the less competitive RS Cube - sat 13th with 34 points.

"I wasn't aware of that, but it's very encouraging to know," Toseland told when given those figures. "Hayden went on to become a world champion so if I'm ahead of him at the same point in my career then that can't be bad.

"But I need to be, because Hayden was only 21 or 22 when he made his MotoGP debut," warned 27-year-old Toseland. "So it's very important that I do start ahead of him because I haven't got as much time to adapt and learn.

"It's great that we're in the hunt straightaway and that we have the chance to be competitive."

Toseland has suffered just one non-score to date, the same amount as Hayden after his first seven rounds, and one less than Bayliss and Edwards.

Toseland's next target is a debut podium, something Bayliss had achieved at his third race, although it took Hayden until round 13 and Edwards until the following season (when he switched to Honda machinery).

Hayden eventually won the 2003 rookie of the year battle by just two points over Bayliss, as the former SBK riders claimed fifth and sixth in the final standings. Edwards, who now rides alongside Toseland, remained 13th.

Hayden has gone on to win three grands prix and the 2006 world championship, while Bayliss took his first and last grand prix victory during a one-off return at Valencia 2006. Edwards is still waiting for his first MotoGP vicory, having finished second on four occasions.

Meanwhile, the 2008 rookie battle continues to be led by factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, despite his Catalan Grand Prix withdraw.

The reigning 250cc world champion holds third in the championship standings - with three poles, three podiums and one win - with former Andrea Dovizioso just ahead of Toseland in sixth (57 points) and Alex de Angelis 14th (24 points).

Toseland has taken a best finish of sixth so far this season, but has high hopes of mounting a podium challenge at Donington Park this weekend - the first circuit, since his MotoGP debut at Qatar, which he has previously raced at.

"I knew the track at Qatar and to nearly qualify on pole in my first ever MotoGP race and finish just behind Valentino - that was the nerves off," reflected James. "I realised I'd made the right decision to come to MotoGP, because the only doubt that I had was where I was going to finish. That performance cemented that I could be as successful as I had in Superbike if we put the work in.

"It's been difficult since Qatar, because they've all been brand new tracks, but saying that we're still in the top six and still qualifying on the front two rows - less than half a second off pole - so it's a doable challenge and one which we've just go to keep working on."

Bayliss finished fifth in the 2003 British Grand Prix, with Hayden eighth and Edwards tenth.


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