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Carlos Checa – Q&A EXCLUSIVE

28 November 2008

Carlos Checa embarked on a new chapter in his career in 2008 after bidding farewell to MotoGP in favour of a top line ride in the World Superbike Championship with Ten Kate Honda.

After a season in which he returned to prominence with two race wins, seven podiums and fourth in the overall standings, Checa spoke to Crash.net about 2008, his switch from MotoGP and his hopes for next year…

Crash.net:
This was your first season at World Superbike level – have you been satisfied with your results this year?

Carlos Checa:
Actually, I'm really quite satisfied with the results this year. We've had some good races and some not so good, but we have learned a lot. We've learned about a new bike, I've learned new tyres, new circuits, a new team, new race strategies - all in a new championship with new rivals. There has been a lot to learn so I should be happy with how it went. Of course, we started the season with the target of winning the championship, but we knew that would not be easy.

Crash.net:
How much have you enjoyed racing in the World Superbike Championship this year?

CC:
I've enjoyed this championship a lot. My last two years in MotoGP were not so exciting but here everything's been new and we've been racing at the front and taking victories again. I enjoyed winning also at the Suzuka 8-hour race with Ryuichi Kiyonari so it would seem that riding the CBR1000RR at the moment is suiting me very nicely. I have enjoyed this season more than any of the previous four or five, so I'm happy here and enjoying the championship very much.

Crash.net:
Describe your feelings when you won both races in the United States? Was there a sense of relief mixed with the joy?

CC:
I didn't quite realise at the time how happy I would feel about it, but it was a great moment for me. We had some problems before race one and had to go out on the spare bike. Although the settings were the same, the feeling was quite different, so to win that race was very special. I like racing in America and I hadn't won any race for quite a while, but the feeling didn't really sink in until a few days after. Then it became a big motivation for me to continue to try to be successful - it was such a great feeling. A really special moment for me.

Crash.net:
Other than that, what do you consider to be the highlight of your season?

CC:
For me, this season hasn't been only about winning. It's been more about what I've learned about myself. I've made mistakes this year, of course, but I've learned from them and I feel that I've really grown this year. I feel so much stronger now - I've learned new things about myself, as well as the bike and the team and the championship. And, maybe more importantly, I've really enjoyed myself as I've learned. As long as that continues, I'll be very happy.

Crash.net
Looking back at the season, are there any areas where you think you could have improved?

CC:
Yes, consistency. And that applies to the team, as well as to myself. It's vital for good results and I know that next year, we can all improve - me, the bike and the team. It's consistency in the way we work together and that will bring consistently good results on the track.

Crash.net:
You seem to have found the transition from MotoGP to WSBK to be quite seamless, more so than some other MotoGP riders – from your point of view, how much of a change has it been?

CC:
It hasn't really been that big a change for me - I'm still racing. But many things have changed for me during the course of my career - 125s, 250s, 500s, two strokes, four strokes. I had the chance to ride the CBR1000RR at Suzuka so I knew what to expect of the bike. I have to say that the start of Superbike races are more aggressive in the first couple of laps, but racing is the same for me really. Competition is competition, and the target is always to be as fast as possible. The Superbike machines are a bit less technical than in MotoGP, with fewer things to adjust and less electronics. The bike is simpler really, but I like that - it allows for more rider input and puts more responsibility on the rider.

Crash.net:
How difficult a decision was it to make the switch from MotoGP to WSBK?

CC:
After I rode the bike at Suzuka and after the 2007 season I had in MotoGP, it wasn't a difficult decision at all. The fact that I was being asked to ride for the Ten Kate team by Honda made it a very easy decision. I really felt I'd come to the end of the MotoGP stage of my career and that I was ready for a new challenge in a new environment with a really strong possibility to win. It's been a great move for me.

Crash.net:
Do you consider WSBK a side-step, rather than a demotion – has your opinion changed as the season has progressed?

CC:
I don't really want to make that sort of judgement. The most important thing for me is to learn from what I do and to love and enjoy it. It's been fantastic for me to be at the front fighting for the title. It's really for other people to make comparisons between championships. Of course, it's been a different situation, but for me it's been a much better situation. As long as the rules are clear for the manufacturers in World Superbikes, the championship will be strong. I'm happy that this is not my area of responsibility but, with two new manufacturers coming to the championship in 2009, it's surely going to grow bigger and stronger. The new rules for Superpole are good and everyone working in the WSBK paddock is focused on making the championship better.

Crash.net:
You were reportedly offered a deal to return to MotoGP in 2009 – how tempted were you by that prospect?

CC:
My intention was always to continue in WSBK in 2009 - it's just that when those stories were circulating, we hadn't finalised an agreement with the team for next season. But, as long as everything was OK with the Ten Kate guys, I was always going to stay. Of course, it's nice to have other offers but I really wanted to continue here. I had been in different teams for different seasons recently and consistency is really important. We had a new bike, with new tyres on new circuits in a new championship this year. So, I had to stay and try to put what I've learned into improving the results even more next year.

Crash.net:
Would you prefer to compete with a top team in WSBK than risk an unknown quantity at MotoGP level?

CC:
There's no comparison really. I'd had my years in MotoGP and that part of my career is over. I am really happy where I am - it's really the best situation for me.

Crash.net:
As a former team-mate of Valentino Rossi, how well do you think he would fare in WSBK racing?

CC:
Valentino is a very talented rider. It doesn't matter if he's riding 125s, 250s, 500s, 990s, 800s, and it wouldn't matter if he was riding a superbike. Wherever he rides, he would be very strong and be riding at the front.

Crash.net:
We recently ran a story suggesting WSBK lap times could be comparable with some MotoGP riders next season, depending on the regulations. Do you think both series are heading in the right direction?

CC:
We'll see how that goes next season but, for me, the lap time is of no consequence - it's really not important. It's better for everyone that the championship is balanced and competitive and that the spectators on TV and at the circuits watch some really good battles. They get that with WSBK and I believe that the one-make tyre rule will bring a little more balance to MotoGP but, for me, nothing will change for next year. I will simply try to be as fast as possible!

Crash.net:
You are the highest classified rider to be sticking with the same team in 2009 – how comfortable are you with being regarded as a favourite for the title - is winning the title the ultimate aim?

CC:
Yes, of course, and nothing has changed in that respect. I think I was one of the favourites to win the championship this year, but we have already talked about how hard that was going to be with a new bike and new tyres, etc. I don't yet know how strong my rivals are going to be, especially those in new teams, but the only thing I can do is concentrate on myself and my team and our performances. We have to get to the start of next season at the highest possible level, but we don't know if Biaggi and Haga will be really strong at the start also. I have a good chance to win next season and that is a really big motivation for me and I really want to do it.

Crash.net:
What will be your approach to racing in 2009?

CC:
The same as it has always been. But next year I will have more experience and knowledge to use in this championship. And with more testing than last season, I will be feeling motivated and strong. Well, to be honest, to have less testing that last season would be impossible - we had none! So, of course, we will be stronger.

Crash.net:
Are you wary of how competitive your team-mates Ryuichi Kiyonari and Jonathan Rea are expected to be? What do you make of them?

CC:
It's much better for me and for the team to have competitive team-mates. I don't want a slow rider next to me because they would contribute nothing to the team, we would have no knowledge to exchange and there would be no collaboration. Jonathan is young and talented and strong, he has already shown this and he will certainly be a force next year. Kiyo has already won three races in his rookie season and he was really, REALLY strong in England! We have a good relationship - we won the 8-hour race together this year and we were recently in Japan with Honda for a big celebration. If he is doing well, I am very happy for him and I think he feels the same about me.

Crash.net:
With two new manufacturers arriving in 2009, how do you rate the competitiveness of World Superbikes at the moment?

CC:
We will have to wait and see how next season develops but I think this current period for WSBK is the best it has ever had. In previous years it was all about Ducati and maybe one or two others, but I think that, in the next year and in the years after, this championship will grow even stronger. The organisers and the management must continue doing what they've been doing recently because it's surely working well.

Crash.net:
Other than you, who do you consider will be a threat for the title in 2009?

CC:
Haga, Biaggi and Neukirchner. I'm not sure about BMW and, although the new Yamaha looks like it will work very well, I think it is asking a bit too much for the riders to be really competitive in their first season. Aprilia is a little different from BMW in that they have some racing history and the proper factory support will make it a strong package. We'll have to wait and see how they apply the homologation rules for the road bike but it will be a good and competitive season for sure.


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