James Toseland's World Superbike team manager, Ronald ten Kate, 'strongly believes' in the Englishman and expects to see a big step from him in MotoGP this year.
Despite winning the 2004 World Superbike Championship, Toseland was dropped by Ducati after finishing fifth in 2005 and looked short of options - before being picked up by Ten Kate Honda to replace MotoGP-bound Chris Vermeulen.
The new partnership brought instant results and Toseland rebuilt his reputation by taking second to Troy Bayliss in the 2006 WSBK championship - then became Ten Kate's first, and so far only, premier-class champion the following season.
Toseland began a new stage in his career with a move to MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha for 2008, where he claimed six sixth-place finishes and eleventh in the world championship - although the highlight of his year was arguably qualifying a superb second on his Qatar debut.
ten Kate now expects to see substantial improvement from Toseland during his second season.
“Well for sure from James we can expect quite a big step up this year. I truly and strongly believe in him as a racer,” said the Dutchman, speaking exclusively to Crash.net
. “Also the new single tyre rule will definitely be a step forward for James. It was unfortunate to see him crash out so hard in testing at Sepang the other week, but I strongly believe that he will make a step.”
It was current Suzuki MotoGP rider Vermeulen who launched Ten Kate's first World Superbike attack when, having won the World Supersport title, the Australian moved with the team to the premier class in 2005. Vermeulen finished runner-up to Troy Corser before accepting the offer of a GSV-R ride.
The highlight of Vermeulen's three seasons in MotoGP is a debut victory in the wet French Grand Prix at Le Mans in 2007, plus six further podiums and three pole positions. Vermeulen's best championship ranking is sixth in 2007, although his machinery has rarely been a match for the best in MotoGP.
“With Chris Vermeulen we are going to have to see,” said ten Kate. “He has already been in MotoGP for a couple of years now, so as a rider I can't see him making a big step. It probably depends more on if Suzuki will make a big step forward. Looking at the latest test results at Sepang, Capirossi was right up there, so we might also see a step forward for Chris.”
The next MotoGP test takes place in Qatar from March 1-3.