Just four months after his motorcycling career looked to be heading on a downward trend, Carlos Checa proved exactly why he remains one of the world's finest riders with a stunningly crafted victory during the World Superbike season opener in Australia.
Dropped by Ten Kate Honda at the end of the 2009 season after failing to build on a strong maiden season at WSBK level, the former MotoGP rider raised a few eyebrows with his move to Althea Racing, but a switch from Honda to Ducati over the winter has transformed the team from mid-field mainstays to genuine front runners.
Even so, despite hinting at a victory challenge with a front row grid slot, Checa's chances were still discounted during the early stages of race two when a poor start left him outside the top ten initially.
However, having struggled for tyre wear during the opening encounter, a change of rubber was now having the opposite effect and was allowing Checa to work his way back up the order.
With the leaders falling over one another as they battled it out up front, Checa swiftly made up the ground he needed to latch onto the front group with just under half of the race to go. Once there, Checa bided his time, working his way past Noriyuki Haga before picking off Michel Fabrizio and Sylvain Guintoli with three laps remaining.
Leaving just Leon Haslam ahead of him, Checa took his chance with a determined overtaking attempt at MG on the very final lap, the 37-year-old holding it together to complete the move and resist any counter-attack from the Suzuki rider.
A landmark day for the Althea Racing team, whose best result at WSBK level before this weekend was an eighth place finish in 2008, Checa was proud to give the team its maiden victory.
”The second race was perfect. In race one we chose a tyre that was perhaps too hard for the conditions and I found it hard to brake. In race two we selected a better tyre and I could brake much more strongly, I also had a very good pace and was able to pass riders fairly easily. My style of riding actually seemed to mean that tyre wear was less of a problem for me than for some other riders.
“By the last lap I was up in second and I could finally get pass Haslam. I wanted to pass him earlier but it was impossible and he didn't leave me space to pass until the very end.
“I am of course extremely happy with the result, it is my first race with the Althea team and on the Ducati 1198 and we have a good package with which to fight this season. My thanks go to the entire team for their hard work and dedication.”
The win marks Checa's third in World Superbikes after doing the double at Miller Motorsports Park in 2008 with Ten Kate Honda.