Former double World Superbike Champion James Toseland has revealed that off the back of his first podium finish since returning from MotoGP this season in Valencia just under a fortnight ago, his next goal has to be race victory – and, he points out, he has a strong winning record around Assen, scene of round four on the 2010 calendar this weekend.
Toseland successfully put a run of ill-fortune and off-colour showings behind him in Spain last time out to storm through the field from ninth on the starting grid to the bottom step of the rostrum in the opening encounter, finally displaying glimpses of the form that earned him the laurels in both 2004 and 2007 as he took the chequered flag barely three-and-a-half seconds shy of race-winner and championship leader Leon Haslam.
Allied to good points for seventh place later in the day in the second outing, the premier class refugee has now hauled himself up from outside of the top ten to equal sixth in the riders' standings – and is palpably growing in confidence and optimism with every race.
Having triumphed in the Netherlands for Ducati in 2004 and Honda three years later, three years later still Toseland makes it clear that he would love to replicate that kind of performance for Yamaha this weekend. Whilst the team is still not quite on the outright front-running pace, it would nevertheless be a brave man to dismiss the 29-year-old Doncaster native's chances of doing just that.
“I've always loved racing at Assen,” affirmed the Yorkshire star. “I've had some good results and always gone well there. I've won on the Ducati and on the Honda, so it would be great to get a win on the Yamaha as well. The bike has come on again from Portugal to Valencia, and we knew from the last round what we needed to improve for Assen. We've had to do a lot of work to get competitive, but on the positive side there's still room for more and we're not far from the front. We can improve quite a lot more and we're going to be a strong package.
“On a personal side, I always try hard; after the Australia crash where I broke my hand, then my mistake in qualifying in Portugal and missing out on the last Superpole session in Valencia by a thousandth of a second I thought I was going to have one of those seasons – but to go from ninth to third and be up there fighting at the front was a massive boost of confidence for me and the garage, so it was good to reward the hard work of the team with a result.”
“We managed to make a major breakthrough at Valencia,” concurred Toseland's crew chief Frankie Carchedi, “and we are looking for further improvement. We found a good base engine map with a user-friendly torque delivery. We also found a traction control setting that uses ignition cut, allowing James to control the spin of the rear tyre. We were on the dyno as early as Monday morning after Valencia to progress further with areas of our electronics.
“At Assen we will concentrate on tyre life, especially for warmer conditions, as this was an area [where] we suffered in Valencia. Assen has numerous changes of direction – some at very high speeds – so we will also be working on making a quick but stable bike. We will be looking to be on the podium in both races, as we can't afford to lose any more points for the championship!”
Those sentiments are echoed by Yamaha Sterilgarda WSBK team manager Massimo Meregalli, who admits that he is hopeful of building on the progress made to-date – and belatedly breaking the squad's 2010 duck in the not-too distant future.
“I think Assen can be a good weekend for us,” asserted the Italian. “The characteristics of the track are well-suited to our bikes, which is an advantage we have to make the most of. The developments focussed on our electronics areas from the last two races have been steadily progressing forwards, which gives me confidence that we can achieve some good results with both James and Cal [Crutchlow].
“The step forwards with our mapping means we should be able to deliver better corner exits for both riders, and the new clutch we'll be trying this weekend will hopefully mean we can get them off the line quicker to stay at the front in the crucial first corner.”