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.
“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.