Carlos Checa can call himself a motorcycling world champion for the first time in his long career as he sealed the 2011 World Superbike Championship at Magny-Cours.
The Spaniard needed a mere 13th place finish to seal the title but went well beyond that to claim a 13th victory of the season around the French circuit [Click for race report
Checa's success, which also sees Ducati secure its first riders' title since Troy Bayliss won in 2008, comes after a remarkable season that he has led from start-to-finish.
The first Spaniard to win the WSBK title, though Checa has established himself as one of the most successful riders of the modern era, this victory signals his first world championship since making his debut on the international stage back in 1993.
A two-time race winner at 500cc/MotoGP level, Checa participated in the premier motorcycling class between 1995 and 2007, his best season coming in 1998 when he finished fourth riding the Pons Honda. Indeed, though Checa was not a prolific race winner in 500cc/MotoGP, he finished inside the top ten overall for ten consecutive seasons between 1996 and 2005.
Making his World Superbike debut in 2008 for Ten Kate Honda, Checa stamped his mark early with a handful of notable podium finishes, though it was his double victory at Miller Motorsports Park that would return him to the top step of the podium for the first time in ten years.
Going on to finish his rookie season in fourth, hopes were high for 2009 but his sophomore year was a tougher one, Checa being out-paced by new team-mate Jonathan Rea on the way to seventh overall. With Ten Kate dropping Checa for 2010, the Spaniard defied expectations that he would retire by accepting an effort from little fancied satellite operation Althea Racing, which was switching from Honda to Ducati machinery for the new season.
It was a perfect match, Checa swiftly adapting to the twin-cylinder machine to prove competitive from the off, even winning the season opener in Australia. More wins followed at Imola, while a double victory at Miller Motorsports Park was scuppered only by mechanical gremlins. Despite that setback, Checa was still able to seal third in the standings for his best-ever world championship result.
With Ducati pulling its factory team out of WSBK, Althea became the de facto Ducati representative in 2011, a status the team and Checa has revelled in. Established as one of the title tips ahead of the season, four wins in six races upgraded that to odds-on favourite, Checa pushing on to finish on the podium in all but four races.
As well as being Checa's first world title, it is also Ducati's 14th success and the first time a Spaniard has won the World Superbike Championship.