9 April 2010
Checa leads as Ducati come to the fore
Independent Ducati riders Carlos Checa, Jakub Smrz and Shane Byrne lead the way in provisional qualifying in Spain.
Carlos Checa continued to hold station at the top of the timesheets as the opening day of World Superbike action at Valencia drew to a close, the local rider taking his second provisional pole position of the season.
A strong session all round for Ducati, six of the manufacturer's seven entries feature inside the top ten, even if its charge is being led by the privateer entries from Althea Racing and the PATA B&G Racing, rather than the factory Xerox team.
With lap times tumbling almost immediately as the riders ventured out onto the circuit for the second time, Checa worked his way to the top at the 20 minute mark with a lap of 1min 34.768secs, already four tenths faster than his FP1 effort.
However, he would soon find himself demoted by his team-mate Shane Byrne, the Briton leapfrogging up the order having languished outside the top ten during practice. B&G's Jakub Smrz did something similar, Czech enjoying a brief stint in front with just over five minutes remaining before Checa's surged ahead again with a defining 1min 34.220secs.
Three tenths faster than Smrz, who held Byrne at bay for second position, Checa heads into the remainder of the weekend as the man firmly to beat.
With Smrz and Byrne managing to find 1.7secs between sessions to haul themselves into contention, their upturn in pace will no doubt be to the chagrin of Xerox, who could only manage sixth and seventh in the order of Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga, the former having blotted his copybook with a second fall of the day during the latter stages of the session.
Ahead of them, Portimao sparring partners Max Biaggi and Leon Haslam were a strong fourth and fifth respectively, albeit half a second adrift of the flying Checa.
Lorenzo Lanzi, a surprise winner on a privateer RG Ducati in 2008, was eighth quickest, with British pairing Cal Crutchlow and Leon Camier rounding out the top ten.
Beyond Fabrizio, several other riders took a tumble during the session, including eighth place Lanzi, Troy Corser and James Toseland, although the Yamaha rider did pick himself up to go on and set a time good enough for 12th place. Jonathan Rea was 13th quickest after losing some time with technical difficulties.
Having managed a top ten performance in free practice, Tom Sykes improved his time but slipped back to 19th position, just inside the top twenty he needs to be to qualify for Superpole.
His team-mate Simon Andrews, meanwhile, had a dismal end to the day, pulling in with technical problems early on before falling 25 minutes into the session. Completing just nine laps, he is currently placed a provisional 24th on the grid.
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