Reigning World Superbike champion Carlos Checa wasn't making any bold predictions on his hopes of retaining the title at the Althea Ducati team's official launch in Italy.

Checa was imperious as he captured the championship in 2011 in style for Ducati but the veteran Spaniard is expecting the opposition to be tougher than ever this season.

"I prefer not to say too much, it's impossible to make predictions when it comes to racing. We do know that this coming season will be tough, there will be stiff competition and we will fight with more or less the same bike as in previous seasons," he said.

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"Having said that, I am confident and can't wait to get back on track with my team - it goes without saying that we will do our utmost to defend the title."

The launch was held at the Althea Ducati team's headquarters in Civita, Castellana.

Davide Giugliano, who makes the step up to World Superbikes in 2012 after winning the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup last season, is relishing the opportunity to compete at the top level alongside Checa.

"I hope to be strong right from the start. I'm riding the championship-winning bike and am part of the championship winning team so I don't have any excuses really," he said.

"I realise that I need to get straight down to work and learn fast if I want to start seeing the results."

Along with Checa and Giugliano, team manager Genesio Bevilacqua was on hand to unveil the new livery of the team's Ducati 1198 machines.

Key sponsors, including representatives from Unibat, TIM and SNAI, were also present, with special guests including Paolo Flammini, CEO of Infront Motor Sports, Paolo Ciabatti, General Manager of Infront Motor Sports, and Ernesto Marinelli, SBK Project Director for Ducati.

Bevilacqua, General Manager of Althea Racing, said: "I'm very happy to officially present our 2012 line-up. We thank all of our sponsors, and particularly Unibat, SNAI and TIM, as it is thanks to them that we are able to embark on this adventure.

"We start the season with high expectations, having won in both the Superbike and Superstock categories last year. We know it won't be easy as the competition is very strong but we will do our best to repeat last year's incredible performance, knowing that we can count on the experience gained by our men in the field during 2011."

In addition to Unibat, TIM (Telecom Italia's mobile phone brand) and SNAI (Italy's largest gaming and betting group) are two significant backers in particular, bolstering the team's efforts to provide Checa with the best opportunity possible to retain the World Superbike crown this season.

The team will travel to Phillip Island in Australia next week to compete in the final tests ahead of the opening round of the championship at the venue on February 26.