With Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga forced to start on the fifth row of the grid of the second round of the World Superbike Championship, Carlos Checa is poised to fly the Ducati flag at Portimao after qualifying in third place.
A month on from his marvellous victory for the privateer Althea Racing team in Australia, Checa will start on the front row for the second race in succession, the Spaniard comfortably out pacing his Ducati counterparts – including the factory concern – in the process.
Indeed, Checa is impressed with the progress of the 1198, claiming the bike has a more competitive top speed down the lengthy home straight, yet is still well sorted for the twisty infield.
“This result was achieved thanks to the team's hard work. The bike has improved a lot with regard to top speed and I am also happy with the set-up which we have found that allows me to be fast even in the more technical sections of this track.
“There are some places where I can make further improvement but overall I'd say we're ready and confident for the two races. This is Superbike and so it's impossible to make any predictions, but we've done the ground work and will give 100 per cent as ever.”
Team-mate Shane Byrne, meanwhile, bounced back from a monster shunt during provisional qualifying to reach the Superpole shootout, the Briton securing seventh position on the grid.
The second substantial accident Byrne has suffered this season, the former British Superbike Champion was nonetheless pleased to be up at the front shadowing Checa.
“The second round of the Superbike world championship and a second high side for me. I cannot explain what happened this morning because my team has done a really great job during these two days and during the qualifying session I was really comfortable on my Ducati and suddenly I crashed.
“Fortunately my physical condition is good and I was able to enter all three sessions of the Superpole. I'm pretty happy because of my seventh position, even though my target was to reach the first row in tomorrow's races starting grid.
“Second row is not so bad and I'm very happy because we found the right set up for the races. I'm happy also for Carlos' third place, that's a fantastic result for all our team. We are both ready for tomorrow's two races.”