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Checa lays down Phillip Island gauntlet
25 February 2011
Carlos Checa continues to exert a dominance over the opposition around Phillip Island as the 2011 World Superbike Championship finally got underway with the Spaniard more than half a second quicker than his rivals.
Having smashed the lap record during testing earlier in the week, Checa – a race winner around the Australian venue last season – was once again in commanding form as he quickly got his lap times into the 1min 31secs bracket.
Though he would fall a second short of his best from testing, he would still end the hour-long session as the only rider to get below 1min 32secs.
It wasn't all plain-sailing for the former MotoGP rider however, as his session-topping lap of 1min 31.647secs was promptly followed by a tumble at the turn two left-hander.
Leading the fairly distant challenge in second position was Jonathan Rea, who put in a fine performance just three days after the 130mph crash that landed him in hospital. Moving up the order in the closing stages, Rea managed 23 laps with his injured hand.
Joan Lascorz, another man in recovery from injury prior to this weekend's curtain raiser, also made a bold impression in third position, the Superbike rookie, who holds the World Supersport lap record at Phillip Island, giving himself and Kawasaki a strong boost early on.
Having maintained a low profile in testing so far, Leon Haslam produced arguably his most convincing display on the BMW thus far as a late effort vaulted him from outside the top ten to fourth position.
It was enough to put him ahead of Sylvain Guintoli – who suffered a fall at turn nine – and Max Biaggi, the reigning champion running as high as third before slipping down the order.
Jakub Smrz, Marco Melandri, Michel Fabrizio and Eugene Laverty followed to ensure all seven manufacturers were featured inside the top ten.
Further back, James Toseland was 15th quickest, behind BMW Italia team-mate Ayrton Badovini, while Leon Camier – who revealed he goes into this weekend battling glandular fever (see separate story) - saw his day get off to a bad start when he fell during the latter stages, leaving him 18th overall.
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