James Toseland Interview - 2010

Interview: Laura Bradley, Pics: Simon bradley

Not a very flattering picture, but an honest one. James Toseland is still the likeable bloke he was, but he thinks more about his answers and as a result seems a little more serious...Everyone knows his name by now, but is he still the same lovable rogue? Here's what happened when we had our most recent interview with James Toseland:

Sorry to ask the obvious but how does it feel to be back here after GP?

Erm, well I'm happy that I'm with a factory team again which is capable of winning races, that's the main thing because it's all about taking trophies home and I felt like last year in the Tech 3 team the package really wasn't capable of finishing on the podium. It looks a bit stronger this year for them, I've heard that they've upgraded the engine and it's a bit stronger for them so I'm disappointed that I haven't got an opportunity this year with the package they've got but that was just the situation, Ben deserved a ride and unfortunately there was just my place to be taken. But I had seven years here, I was seventeen years old when I first joined the paddock so I've got a lot of friends and acquaintances in the paddock and they've welcomed me back really well so being back's not a problem.

You mentioned how you didn't feel like you could win on that bike, it must have been difficult to stay motivated, how did you manage?

It's a great job so, you know, you don't want to lose the job no matter how hard it is. When you've got a job that you love doing motivation's never a problem because you've just got to keep going out there and battling.

How did you deal with the press saying you couldn't hack it with the big boys?

I didn't see any press coming past me so I didn't have to worry about it!

There's been a lot of speculation about who James Toseland really is, with your being less accessible and approachable than before.

I haven't realised that, I've been as approachable as ever and haven't really seen a difference in myself at all, I don't know, maybe it's because I'm busy in between the sessions that you see much of me but I'm either in the garage, in the motor-home or in hospitality.

How would you summarise yourself in a sentence?

(Pauses and starts to laugh) I thought it was an interview not a counselling session! Erm, just I still love riding motorcycles. I'll always be a racer, I love the racing and it's all about the racing and bringing trophies home and being successful so however I do that means that my life's got to be dedicated to that which means training being a part of everything but I'm still as on it as ever and hungry to win races.

Would you say your GP experience has made you older and wiser or not?

I'm certainly older, don't know about wiser! Riding a Moto GP bike is more difficult than a superbike because it's capable of going a lot faster around the track. You have to up your skills as a motorcyclist to be able to push the bike. The limits of a GP bike is more than superbike so you have to adapt your skills.

OK, well obviously with the increase in popularity comes a busier schedule, do you still get time to write songs and play piano?

Yeah I wrote a song a couple of weeks ago which I was quite pleased with but I don't play as much with being busy but every time I do get the opportunity when I'm at home I always play.

It's kind of like a therapy?

Yeah I love it. That was my first love so I've always loved it. I love it as much as riding but differently, riding's a passion to me that I need because of the competitiveness of myself personally, but piano playing is something that I love doing on the different side of me which not many people see.

Last I heard you like a bit of football, I remember there being a football competition at Silverstone, have you been watching the World Cup?

Every match! I watched every match until my sky packed up in the Isle of Man last week and I missed one of the matches. I watched Spain and Chile last night that was a good match, except for the last twenty minutes when they were just kicking the ball around because they'd already qualified you see so neither of them were really bothered! Yeah, it was nice to see England play a lot better against Slovenia.

How are you going to watch on Sunday because obviously it's clashing?

Well yeah exactly, I think I'll just catch the latter part of the second half so I'm hoping I'm going to take my leathers off after a couple of podium finishes and look at the screen! I'll see the last part and hopefully they'll come through. It's Germany isn't it, we've got to win!

Since you were last racing here the circuits have changed and we go to different places, what's your favourite circuit now?

Yeah, it goes the other way round! Erm, it's always ones you do well at, I've always done well at Phillip Island and Brands Hatch. Here's not been a bad track for me, I've never won but I've always had decent results here, Misano's a good place but we used to go the other way round like I said and it was good fun then but I was second in the test here last week so hopefully it's going to be a good weekend.

Misano, last year, struggling to stay with another SBK returnee, Chris Vermeulen...What would you say your worst moment of the last three years has been?

Failing at Moto GP last year. I lost my job which for me is failing, I've never failed in my career and that's the first time it's taken a step backwards. It was a tough learning curve psychologically to deal with that and move on because with the effort that I've always put in to my job no way am I failing. When you have to believe in yourself so much that you can actually achieve it at whatever level failing is not an option, and when I lost my opportunity at Moto GP that was a different mentality to what I've been used to for the whole of my career, so that was probably the hardest part as well as coming back from Cadwell when I broke my leg really badly. Other than those two it's been pretty smooth.

Do you think you have moved on from it?

Yeah I've been back on the podium, without the injuries at Monza and Phillip Island I was consistently on the podium and battling for the win so I haven't got a problem with the riding. Obviously always when I look back I wanted to keep the Moto GP thing going, of course, but as far as concentrating on the job in hand now it's not a problem.

Your fans are glad to have you back in World Superbikes I think.

Yeah I think so because I was twice world champion here and I've had really, really big, unbelievable and loyal support even through the tough time last year. Fans are pleased to have something to cheer about.

And it's better to watch, GP's just becoming quite boring to watch...

Well, I hope nobody else falls off and injures themselves because Melandri was out yesterday and they're down to fourteen riders! They need thirteen on the grid to race. Something needs to change in the strategy of the rules to allow more bikes on the grid for sure because fourteen bikes on the grid with riders and test riders who are taking the place of Aoyama and Rossi who are seconds off the pace so thirteen riders on the grid isn't a problem if there's eight at the front but that's not the case so they need to think about changing that.

If you could change events would you stay in World Superbikes or would you still go to GP?

If I got a really good opportunity in Moto GP on a great package, but the thing is that each year GP changes, especially for the satellite teams. You only have to look at Melandri and De Puniet, all of a sudden that satellite Honda looks really good, it looks fast and has qualified on the front row for the last two races. I was battling with Randy De Puniet week in week out, even last year, so it just shows you what development can do. I fell on a tough year for Tech 3 last year with the package we had and with Ben Spies doing so well, it was just the timing of it that lost me my opportunity. I mean I only was twenty points off finishing seventh in the championship, so if I'd finished seventh with Colin finishing fifth it doesn't look too bad on paper, does it. It was just circumstances.

When you first went there had you met all these riders before or was it like meeting and being in awe of all these people who are really good riders?

Well I'd met Colin because obviously I was his team-mate in Castrol Honda years ago. I'd not met any of the others. But Vale was fine.

Did you ever get star-struck the first time you met him?

Well no, the thing is that you're fans, I'm a competitor. I have to go out there and believe that I can beat Valentino Rossi, I can't go out there and look over the grid and think "**** me that's Valentino Rossi!" (Laughs) You can bleep that bit out. If I think that way then he's beaten me already. It might sound a bit big headed or over confident but if you don't go in there believing you can beat every single person on that grid then you're not going to. But that's the tough part, when it doesn't go right, because there's believing it by saying it and there's believing it when deep down you know you can't. But deep down I knew that I could beat everybody in Moto GP. I don't like saying "if I had that" but if I had a better package...I mean the opportunity at Silverstone was on Valentino's bike and that would have given me the opportunity to see where I could finish and that's what I wanted. I wanted one of the best bikes out there just to see where I was capable of finishing, that's all I ever wanted when I was there for two years.

How come you didn't get that gig on Rossi's bike?
I guess this is one of the races he doesn't think was a failure - first time out in MotoGP, Qatar, 2008. Fighting for the podium with Valentino Rossi...

Just politics.

What would you say has been your best moment?

Battling with Valentino at Phillip Island because other than the last three laps when my rear tyre went off I was behind Valentino and confident that I was going to beat him in that race and ride around the track and to be confident that you can beat him or someone under that stature gives you a lot of confidence.

You were saying that you have to believe you can beat them, so what went through your head when you were in that situation and realising that you may just win this battle with Rossi?

I always think that, I always thought at the weekend that no matter who's in front you've got to beat them and that weekend it was Valentino.

Do you actually see the other riders as who they are or do you just think of them as another person to beat?

This is the difference you see as a competitor or a fan of racing. I admire the GP boys for their effort and commitment, especially Valentino for being nine times champion and still wanting to win, that takes a lot. But other than that admiration for what they've achieved you haven't got admiration for their ability because you have to believe you can beat them.

When you first started out racing did you find yourself getting more star-struck then and having to develop?

No because I wasn't born into racing, I just enjoyed riding a motorbikes. I went from playing piano with my Gran to riding motorbikes and I'd never really heard of anybody, when I first started watching it was when Kevin Schwantz and because he was so big at the time, when I met him, he came up to me after I raced in America and it was the first time I'd been there and he came up to me and said "For the first time you've raced at that track I was really impressed watching you" and he just came up behind me and said that. And for someone like that you don't know to come up and say that to you, I was only twenty, was a nice thing.

Big nasty crash a Monza, did you scare yourself a bit?

The only thing that worried me a bit was just where the impact came, because it gave me a bad blow on the back of the neck and you never really get hit there so I was lucky in that sense because there's no leathers, nothing there. I got an indentation on the back of my neck of all of Leon Camier's numbers and tread so if that had hit any harder then it could have been a serious injury.

James doing what he probably does best. Though the piano playing is still pretty good, too...It was quite worrying when they drew the curtains around you on the track, the media office was very silent for a while.

Did they? Yeah, it just gave me a blow to the back of the neck and I was left seeing stars for half an hour.

Do you think they should revise Monza? There have been some awful crashes there.

Yeah, the start line needs to be forward towards the corner, I mean we're doing 180 miles an hour before we get on the brakes. We either need to go straight into Curve Grande and miss the chicane for the first lap or they need to just move that start line so we're not going as fast. They revised the chicane, it's a bit quicker now but still you're going from 180 miles an hour to 30 miles an hour. The difference from 20 to 30 miles an hour isn't really enough.

So, he's convinced us that he's still the same person but what do you think? Feel free to leave comments!

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