The smile that everyone wanted to see was back. Assen, April 2010. This was when James Toseland's World Superbike season really kicked off, with two fantastic podium finishes, showing his masses of loyal fans that the man who became world champion in 2004 and 2007, can do it again.
Toseland may have a hectic race schedule, travelling across the world week-in, week-out, but he still found time for a charity gig for St. John Ambulance in Peterborough, which raised an estimated £3,000. Following a two-day test at Misano in Italy – in which he finished a positive second in the timings – he flew straight in on Friday, for 'An Audience with James Toseland'.
The evening included him performing solo for the first time on the piano and vocally. It also featured an appearance from his cousin Sophie Elton, similarly with a natural gift for music. Musical flair clearly runs throughout the family. He admitted he felt 'quite nervous' and a little 'rusty' on the piano, as he hadn't had much time to practice after moving house recently. Toseland had just moved from Ramsey to Douglas. It was a quick visit, with James flying back out to Italy the next morning, for PR events for the next race and for him and his band Crash to be reunited for a performance.
Unfortunately, the season started with a bang for James – and not a good one. After a difficult campaign in MotoGP in 2009, the Isle of Man resident made the switch back to the World Superbike series for this season, taking a ride with Italian outfit Sterilgarda Yamaha – but during the Phillip Island curtain-raiser he suffered a broken hand, which compromised his performance in the first two rounds in Australia and Portugal, costing him valuable points.
Valencia was a much stronger race for the 29-year-old and saw him record his first rostrum of the season, with a third place, his first podium since 2007. This was a turning-point, showing the rest of the competition that 'JT' was on his way back to his best, despite having injections to prevent the pain during racing.
Next up: Holland. Despite a poor qualifying in tenth position, Toseland roared to the front and in the first race snuck briefly into the lead, eventually finishing a close second. His next race saw an intense battle with nine other riders and he claimed a vital third place. The real James Toseland was back!
“It was a great feeling to return to the podium and to be fighting for the win!” he enthused. “My confidence is back. That was the first time I actually felt fully fit, as I was riding without anaesthetic. I just want to be on the top step now!”
After four rostrum finishes, Toseland lies in fifth position in the championship, still seeing the world title as his aim for the season – with the voice and demeanour of a very hungry, determined young man, eager to taste more success.
“Yes, I believe I can be world champion,” he affirmed. “I am chipping away. There are four guys in front of me at the moment, but at every race I'll be doing whatever I can to get ahead of them, and to pull those points back. There are 50 points on the table for each round and I'm 97 behind, so it can definitely happen.”