Checa cruises to first win of WSBK 2011
27 February 2011
Carlos Checa got his quest to win the 2011 World Superbike Championship title off to a superb start as an assured performance during the opening race at Phillip Island saw him take a comfortable win.
The Spaniard was in command for all but the opening two laps around the Australian circuit, Checa pushing past initial leader Eugene Laverty on lap three and never looking back.
A repeat of his 2010 win for Althea Ducati, though that feat was considered a surprise back then, his victory this year comes on a weekend in which he has topped each dry timed session.
An almost perfect performance by Checa, though he was beaten into the opening bends by Laverty – who used his outside line into turn one to nose ahead up the inside of turn two -, he simply reeled in the Irishman before planting his move for the lead on lap three at the Honda hairpin.
From here, Checa was untroubled, Laverty holding Max Biaggi at bay long enough for him to establish a buffer that wouldn't be breached all the way to the chequered flag.
Biaggi gave chase once he had dispatched Laverty for second on lap six, but he would eventually be forced to settle for a lonely second position, 4.3secs adrift. Despite this, second marks a solid start to the defence of Biaggi's WSBK crown.
With the top two scampering away, the battle for the final podium spot attracted much of the attention, with several riders vying for the position.
With Leon Haslam following Biaggi through to third on lap six, the Briton held firm but was never able to establish a margin over a chasing pack that consisted of Laverty, Marco Melandri, Jonathan Rea and Michel Fabrizio. Troy Corser and Noriyuki Haga had also been in the mix briefly, but would fade as the race progressed.
Far from feeling the effects of their respective injuries Melandri and Rea progressed past Laverty on laps ten and eleven for fourth and fifth, the Italian in particular marking his territory at Yamaha with a fairly aggressive pass on his team-mate at the hairpin.
Fourth became third when Melandri dipped beneath Haslam for third on lap twelve, though it failed to break up the closely fought group with Haslam, Rea, Fabrizio and Laverty, the Italian having also passed the 2010 Supersport runner-up, all in his shadows.
Rea would be the first to crack when he was caught out at Honda hairpin on lap 14, the Ulsterman running off the track and onto the wet grass, dropping him outside of the top ten.
Unable to pull away, Melandri was back in the clutches of Haslam as they entered the final laps, the Briton snatching back the position with four laps to go.
Resisting Melandri's renewed advances on the final lap, Haslam was able to hold onto the podium on his maiden outing with BMW. Notably, the result also marks only the third podium finish for the manufacturer in WSBK.
Denied a top three finish on his WSBK debut, Melandri would also be pushed down to fifth at the death when an untidy exit from the final turn enabled Laverty to eke ahead on the line and take first 'inter-team' blood against his Yamaha counterpart.
Fabrizio followed closely in sixth aboard the sole Suzuki Alstare, eight seconds up on seventh place Jakub Smrz, who gave Effenbert-Liberty Ducati something to smile about in a race that saw Sylvain Guintoli make a mess of his start to drop from third to 18th before then crashing out altogether.
There were also mixed fortunes for Kawasaki, with Tom Sykes making up two positions in the final laps to finish a solid eighth on the new ZX-10R. However, Joan Lascorz – who had been running ahead of Sykes – suffered a fall at Lukey Heights.
Veterans Haga and Corser rounded out the top ten after failing to build on their early race pace, ahead of series returnee Roberto Rolfo, who put in an unnoticed – but nonetheless impressive – performance to finish in 11th position from 21st on the grid for Team Pedercini's best WSBK result in three years.
Rea recovered to a frustrating 12th, ahead of Leon Camier in 13th, the Briton doing a mighty job to even reach the chequered flag having speculated pre-race that he may last only 'three of four laps'.
Ayrton Badovini and wild-card Bryan Staring rounded out the points in 14th and 15th, ahead of a disappointing Ruben Xaus, while James Toseland and Josh Waters would also miss out after tangling on lap four.