BMW Italia might be a new addition to the World Superbike Championship grid in 2011, but James Toseland is confident that there is enough strength-in-depth inside the team to develop it into a success story, contending that 'there are no better people' to turn the bike into a regular winner.
The S1000RR that will be ridden by Toseland and reigning World Superstock 1000 Champion team-mate Ayrton Badovini was officially unveiled at Monza earlier this week [see separate story – click here
], and a key advantage for 'JT' is the fact that many of the leading team members are ex-Ducati Xerox, and as such know him well from the 2004 campaign, when he went on the first of his two WSBK title-winning charges.
“The team was only finalised to actually go ahead two months ago, so to see the bikes as they are now, they look fantastic!” the Yorkshireman enthused, speaking exclusively to Crash.net
. “I know the team very well from my Ducati Xerox days, and they are some of the best guys in the paddock. I was always confident they'd be able to get the package up-and-running.
“They won me my first world championship, and it's a pleasure to be back working with them. They're excited as well, because they remember the good times from that year. It's been seven years this year since I won the title with them in 2004, and I think both parties are really looking forward to working together again. They're some of the best engineers in the business, and it's a big weight off my shoulders knowing we've got such good personnel inside the team.
“BMW Italia is classed as a privateer team from the outside, but I know the boss is really upbeat by the prospect of a new Italian team running bikes alongside the official German team. BMW have been in the championship for two years and have gone from having, let's say, a tenth-placed bike to a sixth-placed bike. I think it was a really intelligent move to take advantage of the experience of the Ducati Xerox team that became available – I think that will really help the BMW works team, too.”
Conceding that there will be a natural and competitive rivalry between the two BMW entries, Toseland went on to explain that the Italian operation will benefit from the same electronics as the factory effort, even if it will begin proceedings with the 2010-spec engine whilst the 2011 version remains in development to iron out the final few teething issues. Should it be declared a success by the works outfit in the Phillip Island curtain-raiser, however, the sister squad will likely get its hands on the new powerplant shortly afterwards.
Comparing the current engine to that of the Honda he rode in 2006 and 2007 and revealing that the whole bike feels very different to last season's Yamaha R1, the 30-year-old acknowledged that the chief goal has to be to convert the outstanding results that the production-based Superstock BMW achieved in 2010 into similar glories on the WSBK stage. Even if he is under no illusions that the competition will be as tough as if not tougher than ever this year, Toseland is optimistic that progress will be swift.
“As a package, BMW are giving us everything they can for us to succeed,” stressed the 16-time race-winner. “At the end of the day, this new team isn't there just to put more bikes on the grid – it's to help to develop the whole package.
“I think Aprilia will be as strong as last year, and Max [Biaggi] will be fast again. There are the two Yamaha bikes of Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty – they've been doing well in pre-season testing and I'm sure they will have a strong season as well. Then there's Honda with Jonny Rea and Ruben Xaus, who has a point to prove, and I know what Ruben is like when he has a point to prove – he can be very fast. There's Tom Sykes on the Kawasaki, too. I think there are probably ten guys who all have the possibility of finishing up on the podium, which is great – I think it's going to be a really strong season.
“I've been on the podium with every Superbike I've ridden in my career. I've been lucky enough to ride some really good bikes, and I know this is a great team. It will be a tough call with just five days' testing on the bike – we've only got Portugal and then we go to Australia for the first race – but the guys have done a fantastic job to build the bike, I think we've got every chance of getting it dialled-in straightaway and we've got some great guys to develop it going forwards.
“I'm back from my injuries now and fully fit, and I know I'm capable of being competitive. I've won the championship twice before, but the guys I'm working with have won seven or eight world championships with different riders. Our boss is very used to being successful, so we've got to work very hard – but with the knowledge and experience that we've got in the team, I can't see it not succeeding.
“I think BMW has another step to take to consistently get on the podium and challenge for championships, but there are no better people to find that difference. I'm just going to go in there, give it 100 per cent and see what we can get out of it.”