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Checa denies gutsy Guintoli at Portimao

16 October 2011

Carlos Checa has won his 15th World Superbike Championship race of the season after hunting down and passing long-time leader Sylvain Guintoli at Portimao.

Guintoli had looked on course for a maiden WSBK victory for both himself and rookie team Effenbert Liberty Ducati after an aggressive opening two laps saw him sprint to the front of the field.

However, despite an impressive first-half of the race as he broke away from the pack, the threat would ultimately come from Checa, the Spaniard recovering from a slow start to push his way into second place with ten laps of the race remaining.

From here, despite trailing his Ducati counterpart by two seconds, Checa worked his way back into contention, moving onto the tail of Guintoli with three laps to go and making the pass.

Prior to that, Guintoli, who is yet to win a WSBK race and has previously only climbed onto the podium on two occasions, came sprinting out of the blocks from fifth position on the grid, overtaking both Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri with bold passes on the opening lap, before negating the Ducati's slower top speed by slipstreaming past Rea into the lead at the start of lap three.

From here, Guintoli defied expectations by steadily increasing his margin over Rea during the opening half of the race, the Frenchman setting the fastest lap to leave the chasing pack almost two seconds behind him.

That 'pack' was headed up by Rea until lap 13 when Checa overtook him for second position. The new champion had spent much of the race trailing Yamahas, first Laverty – though the Irishman would be eliminated on lap three after a spectacular wobble, one that almost threw him off the bike, prompted a visit to the pit lane – and then Melandri. However, the Italian proved a tougher challenge, matching Checa's lines before eventually succumbing on lap 12.

Dispatching of Rea less than a lap later, Checa signalled his intentions by immediately getting the gap down towards one second. For his part, Guintoli maintained the pressure, upping his pace in an attempt to disrupt Checa's progress.

However, Checa would show again why he has been so dominant this year, lapping consistently to get onto Guintoli's tail with three laps remaining and diving past at the first opportunity. From here, Checa would stretch away, crossing the line 2.8secs ahead, a gap that doesn't quite do justice to Guintoli's impressive efforts.

Indeed, the result is a particular frustration for the Czech-based Effenbert Liberty team after Guintoli's team-mate Jakub Smrz was denied a victory by Marco Melandri at Donington Park in similar circumstances.

Rea completed the podium with a fairly lonely run to third position, while Max Biaggi produced a charging ride up to fourth place having started down in 17th. Having played down his chances after failing to crack Superpole, a stunning start would see Biaggi up to ninth by the end of lap one, before pushing to the front of the mid-field pack and going sixth.

Though that seemed as high as he would get, a late error by Melandri would drop him from fourth and into Biaggi's clutches, the pair embarking on a brief, but intense, tussle before it was decided in the former champion's favour. From here, Biaggi went on to hunt down Joan Lascorz, denying the Spaniard what would have been his best WSBK result with a pass on the final lap.

Nonetheless Lascorz held on for a strong fifth place, ahead of Melandri, while Maxime Berger emerged as one of the race's unsung stars by fighting through the pack to claim his and Supersonic Ducati's best-ever finish at WSBK level in what will be the team's last event.

Tom Sykes yo-yoed through the order before settling in eighth place, ahead of Leon Haslam, Jakub Smrz, Michel Fabrizio and Leon Camier, the latter fighting back to 12th from last after running straight on at the first corner on lap three.

Ayrton Badovini, Troy Corser – racing with a unique crocodile-inspired livery this weekend to celebrate his final WSBK event – and Noriyuki Haga completed the points' paying positions.


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