The news may be a few days' old, but it is worth noting nonetheless: James Toseland has announced that he is to retire from racing motorcycles altogether. In a statement on his official website, Toseland told his fans that the wrist injury he had sustained while testing at Aragon back in March had not healed as he had hoped, and the fall at the last round of World Superbikes at the Nurburgring had exacerbated the injury, meaning it was no longer safe for him to continue racing. As a result, he had been reluctantly forced to admit defeat and retire from professional motorcycle racing.
The decision is a wise but sad end to a checkered career, which saw the Yorkshireman win two World Superbike titles, becoming the youngest World Superbike champion ever in 2004 at the age of 23 aboard a factory Ducati, then repeating the feat in 2007 riding a Ten Kate Honda. Toseland's early career saw him racing 125s as a youngster, before moving up to the World Supersport class at just 17 years of age. Toseland switched back to the British Superbike series a couple of years' later, before returning to the world stage with the GSE Racing team. Several years as a WSBK front runner followed, culminating in his two WSBK titles.
After winning his second WSBK title, Toseland made the move up to MotoGP, and made an immediate impression. The Englishman put his Tech 3 Yamaha machine on the front row of the grid at the first race at Qatar, and went on to post some strong results in his first year, though he never managed to finish better than 6th. A crew chief switch at the end of the season made him unpopular with the team - and especially with his teammate Colin Edwards - and when Toseland struggled to get to grips with the spec Bridgestone tires, he never really recovered his position in the class. Ironically, Toseland had spent much of the 2008 season pushing team boss Herve Poncharal for a switch to Bridgestones, which eventually came once the single tire rule was introduced.
A year later, in 2010, Toseland returned to World Superbikes to ride the factory Yamaha. Pressure was once again high - the bike Toseland had been given to ride was the machine vacated by 2009 World Champion Ben Spies, but Toseland struggled once again with the machine, posting just four podiums throughout the season, while his teammate Cal Crutchlow went on to take 3 wins on the bike. At the end of the year, Toseland switched to the BMW Italia team, starting the 2011 season aboard the satellite BMW S1000RR alongside Italian youngster Ayrton Badovini. However, a crash during testing at Aragon saw him break his wrist, requiring reconstructive surgery to allow him to ride again. The second crash at the Nurburgring was the final blow to Toseland's career, reinjuring his wrist beyond repair.
Fortunately for Toseland, he has another, entirely different career path to follow. Toseland is an extremely accomplished pianist, and performs regularly with his band Crash around the world, and is commonly seen appearing at concerts held at various motorcycle racing events.
Toseland's immediate retirement has opened up an intriguing possibility. Over the next two days, Toni Elias - another rider who has struggled immensely with the current breed of Bridgestones in use in MotoGP - is to test Toseland's BMW S1000RR at Misano. Although both team and Elias have denied that Elias will race in WSBK during this season, according to Spanish sources in the MotoGP paddock, Elias will be riding for BMW in World Superbikes in 2012. The test at Misano gives Elias his first chance to try both the bike and the spec Pirelli tires which the WSBK series uses. It will be a crucial test of both Elias' ability to adapt to the Pirellis, and his ability aboard a World Superbike machine. A good result at Misano will seal the deal for Elias, with an announcement likely in the near future.