If all goes to plan, Carlos Checa will remain with Althea Ducati to race the new 1199 Panigale in next year's World Superbike Championship.

At a time when former MotoGP rivals Casey Stoner (26) and Valentino Rossi (33) have been fending off retirement rumours, 39-year-old Checa shows no sign of hanging up his leathers.

The Althea Ducati star became Spain's first ever WSBK champion with the ageing 1098R last season and remains in the thick of the title fight this year - on effectively the same machine, but with a further six kilos of weight imposed over the winter.

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"All the development for the 1098R is done," Checa told Crash.net. "All we can do now is set-up.

"New parts are not arriving because evolution for this bike has stopped and also because the rules of the championship say we cannot [develop] in certain areas. The rules are quite strict technically and I believe that what Ducati did in the past is the maximum [development] we can have at this moment.

"The bike is not bad at all," he continued. "We just need more speed and acceleration in some areas. I feel quite comfortable with the chassis, braking and power delivery. This is a good bike that we have confidence in and which we won many races and the championship on last year.

"Now we have six kilos more and our rivals are probably stronger than last year, but we are still able to fight. We will see at the end of the year where we were. Hopefully we can be in front."

Checa will soon make his test debut on the 1199 Panigale, currently being race-developed in the FIM Superstock series.

The Panigale represents a radical departure from previous Ducati Superbikes in that it uses a monocoque aluminium chassis/stressed engine concept, developed in MotoGP, rather than a steel trellis frame.

"After Miller [May 28] or Misano [June 10] I believe there is a test at Mugello that I will take part in, where I will ride the new bike," he confirmed. "I'm looking forward to seeing how it feels."

Checa - whose premier-class grand prix career began on 500cc two-strokes, extended throughout the 990cc MotoGP era, and ended on an 800cc RC212V - is intrigued by the prospect of shaping the new machine.

"For me it is very motivating to take part in this new project, as a rider who has raced and won with the traditional Ducati bike, and now moving to a bike that is a completely new concept for Ducati," he said.

"I want to set-up and improve that bike and probably, if things are going well, race with that bike next year."

Althea became Ducati's top WSBK entry following the withdraw of the official factory team at the end of 2010, although the extent of manufacturer support Althea receives is unclear.

Rumours suggest Ducati may be considering an official WSBK return in the not-to-distant future, but Checa's main concern is simply to keep his proven winning team intact - whatever banner they race under.

"I would like to continue with the same people, with the team that we won the championship with last year. I think it is a good team. Good people," he said of 2013. "I feel comfortable and I think this will be the best solution. That is what I would like to do.

"I don't know [what the Ducati team format will be]. First I will see if I am racing with Ducati. The first opportunity to talk to Ducati will be, I believe, around September. I need to feel what I want to do and see how the [Panigale] project is progressing.

"But for now I am really, really focused on this year. We have a really great opportunity again and I don't want to think too far in the future. We'll see at the end of the year. For me, as late as possible I can decide is better."

Checa will head for next weekend's US round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship having slipped to fourth in the standings after a costly turn-one accident in the second race at Donington Park on Sunday. He remains within one race win of title leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia).


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@ JukkaX

The the Duke is the fastest bike in the 2012 MotoGP. They just don't have a rider capable to make it turn...
Ducati make fine bikes. The 1198R WSBK bike is just too loaded with restrictions. Checa's bike is soon heavier then the road going 1198R.....