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Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 16:11 UK

Rookie Toseland comes good

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport in Mugello

James Toseland
James "Giacomino" Toseland's technical changes paid dividends

Valentino Rossi's seventh straight win at Mugello no doubt dominated Monday's headlines in Italy but there were some notable performances throughout the field, with the rookies once again showing their huge potential.

James Toseland, or 'Giacomino' as the Italian circuit commentator insisted on calling him, made a major change to his set-up and it paid dividends in his best race since round two at Jerez.

Basically, James switched to the shorter wheelbase set-up that Valentino Rossi had initially experimented with to get more traction from the Bridgestone rear a few races ago.

Jorge Lorenzo and Colin Edwards had followed suit and found it also improved performance with the Michelins but James was reluctant to try it, figuring he had enough on his plate trying to learn the tracks at Shanghai and Le Mans without making big changes to the bike.

After two disappointing results he took the plunge this weekend and a return to the top six was a deserved reward.

Alex de Angelis also deserves a mention after producing what his team manager Fausto Gresini described as 'the ride of a true champion'.

Alex de Angelis
New boy De Angelis turned more than a few heads on Sunday
De Angelis has been the least celebrated of the four rookies so far this season, learning his trade on one of only two Bridgestone-shod Hondas - satellite ones at that.

The breakthrough for the San Marino man came in the warm-up, when he followed Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner for several laps before posting the fastest time in the session.

In the race he dropped to fourteenth on the first bend but made up 10 positions in the next nine laps, twice setting the fastest lap of the race, before running out of time as he hunted down Dani Pedrosa for a podium finish.

I'm not sure if it was inspired by the sight of Jorge Lorenzo climbing from his wheelchair to take second place at Le Mans but Honda wheeled out 41-year-old test rider Tady Okada at Mugello to give their pneumatic-valve engine a first run.

Okada's first GP in eight years wasn't a particularly smooth one - a crash on cold tyres on Friday led to an electrical breakdown on Saturday, but the veteran completed full race distance on Sunday to allay HRC's fears about reliability.

The new motor kicks out an extra 1,000rpm compared to the spring-valve version and with the right gearing it should offer Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden a top speed boost of between five and 10km/h. We can expect to find out for sure at Barcelona on Friday.

Marco Melandri's immediate future at Ducati has been the subject of intense speculation and rumours in the Italian press are suggesting a sabbatical until the end of the season before a possible return to Honda Gresini in 2009.

Marco Melandri
No wonder Melandri is being linked with a departure from Ducati

Admittedly, things are looking bad for Marco and a crash in Sunday's race won't have helped but Fillipo Preziosi, General Director of Ducati Corse, gave his backing last night.

"We're all disappointed for Marco but we cannot give up," he said. "At Barcelona we'll work on another small step with the engine and I'm sure that when Marco finally gets a good feeling with the bike we'll be able to make the most of the talent that we all know he possesses."

I mentioned in my last column that Chaz Davies could be in line for a MotoGP appearance with Kawasaki at Laguna Seca next month.

This possibility has now disappeared, with the factory changing their mind on the decision to run wildcards in America and instead focusing their efforts on their struggling current riders.

Hopefully John Hopkins will have calmed down by then. After his chain broke in the last round at Le Mans, the Anglo-American crashed out of Sunday's race at high speed when his gear-shifter refused to co-operate going into turn one.

John Hopkins
Let's just say Hopkins wasn't best pleased after mechanical faults again ended his hopes of victory
With no way to downshift and rub off speed he had nowhere to go but the gravel and he was lucky to escape major injury. "This cannot be allowed to happen again," he fumed.

There are problems on the other side of the Kawasaki garage too, with Ant West again struggling to stop his rear wheel from spinning up during the race.

He was so angry that he opted to talk in the third person.

"This is a real physical problem, not something that exists in Anthony West's head," said Anthony West.

"I'm looking to the team for a solution because I came to MotoGP to race and so far this season I've had little opportunity to do so."

Colin Edwards might want to take heed, with Kawasaki confirming this weekend that they are in preliminary discussions with the Texan for 2009.

MotoGP should have made it to the gossip pages too, with half the world's paparazzi having spent the last week trying to hunt down Brad Pitt and speculating whether or not Angelina had given birth to twins yet.

So where was Brad?

Brad Pitt
Who could that be making an appearance on the Pitt wall?
Alongside the rest of the Valentino Rossi fans at Mugello of course!

After watching the first couple of laps with his son on Pitt wall (sorry), Brad was then taken to the VIP area before meeting Valentino and Casey Stoner after the race.

Keith Flint from The Prodigy was also at Mugello but typically bucked the general trend by showing his support to Loris Capirossi.

After Loris qualified on the front row on Saturday, Flint gave him a gold disc from the single 'Breathe'.

Unfortunately it proved 'No Good' to Loris in the race as he dropped back to seventh place and he'll be hoping for more of a 'Hotride' this weekend at Barcelona.

see also
Impeccable Rossi wins at Mugello
01 Jun 08 |  Motorbikes
As it happened: Italian MotoGP
01 Jun 08 |  Motorbikes
Steve Parrish's MotoGP column
30 May 08 |  Motorbikes

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