Reigning World Superbike champion Carlos Checa, tipped as the man to beat in this weekend's 2012 season-opener at Phillip Island, suffered this fright during Friday qualifying in Australia.

The Althea Ducati star, quickest in morning practice and on top for much of the afternoon qualifying, was forced to bail off his 1098R after running off-track and heading for a tyre wall at turn ten of the seaside circuit (see below for more pics).

"I lost the rear, maybe because of tyre wear, and couldn't keep hold of it but luckily I didn't collide with the small wall in front of me!" said Checa.

The Spaniard was unhurt in his mid-session tumble, but dropped to fourth place by the end of QP1, behind Honda's Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz (Liberty Ducati) and new team-mate Davide Giugliano.

Nevertheless, Checa continues to look the man to beat on race tyres.

"I had the chance to try the narrower tyre but we saw that the wider tyre lasts longer," he continued. "The tyres were the focus of our work today really, identifying the best solution to ensure good race pace.

"I'm satisfied with what we've got done. I've always gone well with the Ducati at Phillip Island and so I think we can benefit from this 'track factor' come Sunday."