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Q&A: James Toseland - EXCLUSIVE

26 March 2007

by Russell Atkins

Current World Superbike Championship leader James Toseland is approaching the upcoming British round at Donington Park with a good deal of optimism, following a stellar start to the campaign that has seen him notch up a brace of wins and two second places.

The 2004 title-winner has left former MotoGP aces Max Biaggi and Troy Bayliss quite literally trailing in his wheel tracks throughout the opening two meetings, and is clearly keen to continue that form as the series returns to his home country this weekend. Perhaps a lesser-known fact about the 26-year-old is that he is also a singer and keyboard player in his own rock band, Crash. He took time out from a private gig in London earlier this month to tell us about his extra-curricular hobby, and how he is enjoying the racing season so far…

Q:
James, first of all can you explain where the idea of forming a band came from?

James Toseland:
I've played the piano all my life – my gran plays it and she taught me to play. I met the band I play with in Newquay in 1998. I was on holiday with some friends staying in a caravan park, and the band were doing the summer season down there. They were called Shazoom, and the lead singer recognised me and came up to me in the bar. It turned out he was a bit of a racing fanatic. We kept in touch, the keyboard player later quit which obviously left a big hole to fill, and when they found out I played the piano I just fitted in nicely. We've all been together about four years now, but the band isn't called Shazoom anymore. It's called Crash, and I just play for a bit of fun in-between races.

Q:
The style of music you play seems to be cover versions of artists like Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. Has that come from all four members of the band?

JT:
All the boys like rock and roll, and that's perfect for motorcycling events. My sponsors and other people book the band because I play in it and am connected to the racing. I like rock and roll anyhow. I'm a bit of an old rocker myself!

Q:
Who would you say are your own musical influences?

JT:
Obviously Jools Holland is a big hero of mine when it comes to piano-playing, and Elton John's song-writing for the piano is awesome. Jamie Cullum is a star as well – people like him have made piano-playing a little bit cooler nowadays. I'm not saying Richard Clayderman isn't cool, but he didn't really bring the rock and roll into piano-playing did he?

Q:
Where did the name Crash come from? Whose idea was that?

JT:
I was just a bit conscious about being introduced to all these bikers – they are the loveliest people you could ever meet but as you can imagine they are also a mean old bunch – with them staring at us in their leather jackets and tattoos and us announcing ourselves as a band called Shazoom! It sounds like the Village People doesn't it? I thought it sounded a bit camp, so rather than risk getting things thrown at us the lead singer said let's call it something to do with the racing. We went from Pitlane to Chequered Flag and all sorts then I just said 'why not Crash?' I did say if I go to the next race and fall off four times we're changing it, but ever since we've called the band Crash, touchwood the crashes haven't been too bad.

Q:
What would you say you enjoy most about performing at live gigs?

JT:
I just enjoy playing and singing. I haven't played with the band or sung for about two months with the racing season having just started, so I don't get to play that often. It's such a pleasure to play with this standard of musicians as a hobby. They are professionals. They do a Robbie Williams take-off called 'Let me entertain you' which is fantastic. Playing with me is a hobby for them as well. It's just nice to have this outside of the racing.

Q:
You've had almost a dream start to the 2007 season. Did you expect things to be going so well back when the year began?

JT:
I don't know about this well, but I knew I was going to be there or thereabouts. You can never underestimate Max Biaggi and the status he brings to the championship – the publicity has just gone up and up since he joined the series. Then there's Troy Bayliss, who did what he did in Valencia at the end of last year in front of all those people in MotoGP – beating guys like Nicky Hayden, Loris Capirossi and Valentino Rossi was awesome. The standard of the championship in World Superbikes this year is absolutely incredible, with at least six riders who can win races.

Q:
It must feel good to be showing the ex-MotoGP aces the way so far too..?

JT:
I had a chance to go to MotoGP, but it wasn't with the right package I thought. I feel like I'm riding better now; my whole mental attitude and everything else is getting better too. I'm really enjoying riding in World Superbikes. Obviously my aim is to get into MotoGP, and hopefully in the near future, but it's certainly not doing me any harm for now being in World Superbikes and racing against these guys.

Q:
So do you see Biaggi and Bayliss as your principal rivals over the remainder of the season?

JT:
Yeah, but you can never rule out (Noriyuki) Haga – he's always biting at your heels. Troy Corser is a fantastic rider too, a two-time world champion. Bayliss' team-mate (Lorenzo) Lanzi is getting quicker and quicker. All the manufacturers are on the pace too. In the second race in Australia I won on a Honda, Bayliss was second on a Ducati, Haga third on a Yamaha, then Biaggi on a Suzuki. All the riders and manufacturers are up there, which is great for the championship.

Q:
How excited are you about returning to Donington Park? It will be the first time since 2001 that World Superbikes have raced there…

JT:
It is, and I had a decent result back then too. It was my first year in World Superbikes and I was coming back from a really bad thigh injury. I had broken my femur in three places but I think I finished sixth or seventh, which I remember being really pleased about. Bayliss and Biaggi are going to have a little bit more experience around there from their MotoGP days but I know my way round too, and with the confidence I've now got from the first two rounds I can't wait to go there. To be a British guy leading the championship heading into Donington Park is just great. I've had some fantastic support over the past few years, and I really hope I can win in front of my home crowd.

Q:
Looking further ahead, how do you foresee the rest of the season panning out?

JT:
If I had a dream, the same as it has done for the first two rounds! If I can finish second and first every time like I've done so far for the whole season I will be lifting the trophy quite early. I don't drink throughout the season, but if I can wrap it up before my birthday on 5 October I will definitely be having a few drinks before the last race.


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