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Double World Superbike Champion James Toseland

James Toseland’s approach to racing is simple: "Put everything into it and believe you’re in complete control. If you have any reservations about yourself, or safety, forget it. It’s not your game. You have to get on that grid, and the only thing that scares you is actually finishing second." From his beginnings in Junior Motocross, winning the World Superbike Championship in 2004 and 2007, through to his two seasons in MotoGP and forced early retirement because of injury at the age of 31, this has never changed. He is a man driven to succeed.

Triumph out of adversity

Who can forget that incredible 2007 season? What was it Toseland said? ‘My one at home was getting lonely, so I thought I better get him a partner!’ That’s the winning spirit: Haga, Biaggi, Bayliss and Nieto, all coming strong in the end, and then at Magny-Cours, Toseland having to battle through to sixth in the final race and claim the trophy. He finished two points ahead of Haga, who’d overtaken Biaggi - both of them fighting hard for the win - but that’s how it is sometimes: it’s the man with the guts to fight back against a season of adversity and who never gives up, who comes through in the end.

Toseland had an unsettled childhood. His father left when James was only three; but it was his mother’s new partner, Ken Wright, who introduced him to motorbikes. Ken and his mother separated, and at the age of fifteen James was forced to deal with the trauma of Ken’s suicide. He turned his back on a normal teenage life and would take to his motocross bike whenever he needed to get away, riding for hours on the slagheaps around his home town of Rotherham. He said: ‘Without all the problems, I probably would not have had the right mentality to be as good as I was. Traumas in life mould people to how they are and how they approach life. I never really got angry or shouted, probably because I had the motorcycle to jump on and wrestle the hell out of. I’d have my tantrums on the bike. That’s why I’m so fast. It kept me on the straight and narrow.’

A varied career

James Toseland’s racing career saw many peaks and troughs. Some may see his frustrating two years in MotGP as a defining period, overshadowing his earlier success in Superbikes. This would be unfair. In his comparatively short career, Toseland collected 16 WSBK wins and is one of only two men to have won the World Superbike Championship for two different manufacturers.

After Ken Wright’s suicide, Toseland moved from motocross to road racing. Success came quickly with his Junior Road Race Championship win in 1995; he then moved to 125cc racing in the UK Superteen series. In the late nineties he dominated the Honda CB500 Cup series; in 1998 and 1999 he rode for Castrol Honda World Supersport, finishing 18th and 11th; and in 2000 he made his British Superbike Championship debut with Paul Bird Honda, enduring a tough campaign on the faster bike – contesting the first 7 rounds and missing 4 through injury - finishing 12th.

For the 2001 season he was given a place on the GSE Racing’s World Superbike team alongside the more experienced Neil Hodgson, riding a Ducati. He rode well, finishing 13th overall and achieving a best finish of 6th at Brands Hatch. The following year, still with Ducati but on the HM Plant Team, he proved himself a consistent top ten performer, climbing the podium for the first time with a third place at Assen and finishing 7th overall. Progress was steady and in 2003 he took his first win at Oschersleben and secured a 3rd place overall. For the next season he replaced Neil Hodgson on the Factory Fila Ducati team, living up to expectations with a series of consistently good races: 3 wins and 11 other podium finishes, staying with team-mate Regis Laconi all the way. Although he trailed Laconi on wins, with 2 against 7 heading into the final round, Toseland was the more consistent rider and they went into the season finale on level points. Toseland snatched the 2004 championship in a tense title showdown at Magny-Cours, out-riding his team-mate and winning by a 9 point margin.

The following season was a tough one with only 7 podium finishes and fifth place overall. The highlight was a home victory at Silverstone. For 2006, Toseland moved to the Australian Winston Ten Kate Honda team; here he rebuilt his reputation with a 2nd place finish overall to the dominant champion Troy Bayliss. Toseland took 3 wins from 12 podiums and was offered a MotoGP ride with d’Antin Ducati for 2007. He turned this down and committed his immediate future to WSBK, hoping to enter MotoGP as a double World Superbike Champion in 2008 - which is what he did.

In that 2007 season he was off the podium only twice in 12 races, setting him up with a solid lead before accidents and misfortune struck, which made that nerveless 6th place finish – almost spinning off the track in the process, but miraculously staying on two wheels – all the more impressive.

MotoGP and after

His rookie season at MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha was tough, although he finished 6th in the opening race at Qatar and then 8th at Jerez. The highlight of the year was at the Australian Grand Prix where he was one of the few riders to fight back and re-pass Rossi. He finished the season 11th overall.

Toseland crashes during the Sepang MotoGp test in 2009.  Photo Chris Reeve for the Daily Mail.

The following year, with disputes between Toseland and team-mate Colin Edwards over swapping of crew chiefs all over the media, two pre-season accidents and criticism over his aggressive style, it was a season begun on the back foot from which he never recovered, finishing 14th overall. The year ended with Yamaha announcing that Ben Spies would replace Toseland on the team and that Toseland would return to Superbikes, taking Spies’ place at Sterilgarda Yamaha.

Toseland struggled on the new bike, but four podium finishes lifted him into outside title contention; 5 retirements in the final 6 races pushed him down to 9th place. He was not retained by Yamaha for the next season and signed for BMW Motorrad Italia. Following his debut at Phillip Island, an accident during testing at Motorland Aragon left him with a broken wrist and an uncertain future. Six months later, competitive racing still seemed a long way off. On doctors’ advice he announced his retirement – a desperately disappointing end for one of the UK’s finest competitors.

In 2012 Toseland married the Georgian-born singer, Katie Melua.  Photo Paul Lewis for The Daily Mail.

James first met Katie after a concert in Sheffield the previous year. But Katie had never heard of him. He said, "Katie wouldn’t even know what Valentino Rossi looked like! It was only because her piano player was such a fan that he kept talking about it on the tour bus after he’d met me. It was a nice relief for someone so established to be attracted to me because of my personality."

Sample Katie's singing here: v=48JPN03XD_E#at=49 as nobody has heard of her here at the bottom of the world.

Since his retirement, Toseland has put the same passion he gave to racing into pursuing his rock career, collaborating with Toby Jepson, singer and guitarist with the British rock band, ‘Little Angels’. Toseland is no musical novice – he began taking piano lessons from his grandmother at the age of eight. His fame as a racer has given him more opportunities to perform, although he steers clear of using Katie’s influence in the business. "I want to do it myself," he said. "I don’t want to be a gimmick." As they say, he’s paid his dues, out on the road. The five piece band will be putting out its first single in October 2013. The name of the band – ‘Toseland’ of course!