By Mike Nicks

"What viewers and riders need to understand is that this job is very much about maximising 21 litres of fuel."

It seems a curious statement from a manager whose rider has been the sensation of winter testing, but then Roger Burnett the strategist and James Toseland the guy on the Tech 3 Yamaha look at the big picture when they're planning a race season.

"In race trim we're probably at more of a disadvantage than we are in qualifying," Burnett reasons. He's referring to the power of the conventional valve-spring engine that Toseland is using for the early races of the season, and the pneumatic-valve YZR-M1s that Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are racing in the Fiat Yamaha squad.

"In qualifying trim we are probably 3-4mph slower," Burnett says. "But over the race distance that gap increases compared to guys with an engine that is more efficient.

"The pneumatic engine is more efficient and therefore will maintain its power level over the full race distance. We have to have a reduced level of power to make sure that we finish the race. Qatar is the most demanding race for fuel economy - it's the race where fuel efficiency is a big issue."

So the Brit pair are not blabbing about podium positions or getting on the front row - yet. They're taking a methodical, big-picture approach that explains why the World Superbike champion was able to adapt so rapidly to a nervy 800cc MotoGP bike compared to the plusher seat of a 1,000cc Superbike.

They pondered deeply before going to Yamaha - about the least fashionable bike in MotoGP at the end of last season.

"We analysed all the bikes and their characteristics," Burnett said. "James had ridden a Ducati [a V-twin], and then won the first time out on a four-cylinder Superbike [the Ten Kate Honda Fireblade]. So it was obvious that he could adapt. We chose a package that he would adapt to the easiest."

But even though Toseland has consistently finished in the top six in winter testing, climaxed by a blazing second fastest at the last Qatar session, Burnett - himself a TT winner, and grand prix and Superbike rider - claims that his rider still isn't on top of the 19,000rpm Yamaha, despite around 2,000 testing miles in the saddle.

"On a Superbike he was ahead of the bike - he knew what it would do and was ready for it," Burnett said. "But it's still not coming naturally to him on a MotoGP bike. Every time he's having to have 100 percent concentration. If he doesn't, it will catch you out.

"When we're ahead of it, then we can really start feeling confident. But it isn't a natural feeling yet."

Every aspect of Toseland's approach to his new challenge is thought out and planned. Some riders went home after the floodlit tests at the Losail circuit last week, but Toseland stayed on to acclimatise himself to a race weekend regime that will see riders going to work in practice and the race at a time they would normally be dropping off to sleep.

"James has been working night shifts," Burnett said. "He's been getting up at midday and having breakfast. He ate at 6pm, and then went into the gym at 9 or 10pm and worked to a two- or three-hour programme. Now his body will want to react when it's time to go qualifying and racing."

So, all set up to go then - no reason why the fans can't look forward to a top six finish. But testing is different to racing.

"When you don't have the quickest bike, factors in the race affect your lap time," Burnett explained. "If Marco Melandri [on the Marlboro Ducati, probably 10kph quicker than the valve-spring Yamaha] passes James on the straight, James has to follow him for the rest of the lap."

He adds: "Everyone is difficult to pass in MotoGP. Because you're on the absolute limit, one small error and you end up slightly off line, and someone has passed you. It's like tennis: you tend to win tennis because someone else makes a mistake."

So what do Burnett and Toseland want from Sunday?

"Our job this weekend is to make sure that we finish the race," Burnett says. "My priority isn't winning or getting on the podium, it's about finishing. If we do that I know we'll be in a strong position. If this were the fifth race on the calendar and we had already finished the first four, it would be a totally different strategy for this race."