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Checa tops testing with new Ducati 1199
19 February 2013 CLICK HERE
to view the combined times from Monday and Tuesday
Carlos Checa gave the clearest hint yet that the new Ducati 1199 Panigale will be a competitive force from its World Superbike debut after concluding the pre-season test at Phillip Island with the fastest time.
Showing few ill-effects from the virus that kept him out of testing action last week, 2011 champion Checa opened the final day of testing with the quickest time in the weather-hampered morning session before going on to set the pace again in the warmer afternoon session.
Lapping in a best time of 1min 31.059secs, Checa – winner of four of the last five races to be held at Phillip Island - was two tenths quicker than day one front runner Leon Camier, the Spaniard's impressive form sending a warning shot to his rivals who may have expected the 1199 to be further down the order at this early stage.
Even so, the field remains remarkably close with just six tenths covering the top ten riders after two days of action, while the six manufacturers would occupy the top six positions too.
Behind Checa, Marco Melandri was second fastest on the BMW, while Camier's lap time from day one was still good enough to leave the Suzuki rider third in the overall order.
Having maintained a fairly low profile in the wake of his wrist injury, Kawasaki's Tom Sykes made advances towards the head of the leaderboard as he ended the test in fourth place, while Michel Fabrizio and Jonathan Rea headed up the Aprilia and Honda charges in fifth and sixth.
Leon Haslam backed up his Pata Honda team-mate in seventh place, ahead of Eugene Laverty on the best of the factory Aprilias and Althea Racing's Davide Giugliano, who was one of two riders to suffer a fall during the session.
The other was the already-injured Jules Cluzel, who suffered another set-back with a red flag-inducing tumble less than an hour into the session. Despite failing to return to the track, the Superbike rookie was still a creditable 11th quickest on the overall timesheets, just behind countryman Sylvain Guintoli.
Behind him, Chaz Davies and Loris Baz endured fairly anonymous starts to their respective 2013 campaigns in 12th and 15th respectively, the pair split by wild-card riders Glenn Allerton and Jamie Stauffer.
Elsewhere, despite occupying the latter portion of the field, Italian trio Ivan Clementi, Vittorio Iannuzzo and Federico Sandi can be satisfied to be within two seconds of the ultimate pace on their return to WSBK action this year.
A contrast in fortunes compared with the Ducati rider at the head of the field, Max Neukirchner and Ayrton Badovini were left bring up the rear of the 21-strong pack after the former missed the second half of testing in the wake of his early crash on day one, while the latter managed an eight lap shakedown in preparation for his return to action this weekend.