As one of the happier, more positive members of the World Superbike paddock, the fact Carlos Checa had much to grumble about in 2012 was representative of his frustrating season as reigning champion.
The dominant winner of the 2011 title with an immense 15 race wins to his name, it was difficult to imagine anyone other than Checa securing the 2012 title, not least when the Spaniard swept the board during pre-season testing.
Furthermore, a big crash in the opening race at Phillip Island aside, Checa's subsequent three straight wins – including a double at Imola – seemingly sounded the death knell for the title battle before it had barely started. Of course, such worries would prove very premature, Checa ascending to the top of the podium just one more time before reluctantly handing over his crown and No.1 status.
So what went wrong? Well, the recurring theme of Checa and team manager Genesio Bevilacqua's comments over the year was the 6kg weight increase incurred by the twin-cylinder machine over the winter period. Intended to appease rivals crying foul over Checa's dominant 2011 season, the revised regulations drew derision from the Althea camp all season long.
In a way, they had reason to be frustrated. It was clear that the weight increase didn't prevent Checa from setting fast lap times – as represented by his continued strong qualifying efforts -, but in a race environment it was telling. Indeed, it was clear, particularly at a tight venue like the Moscow Raceway, that Checa had the edge through the bends, but unless he was able to pass, he was otherwise defenceless on the lengthy straight.
Then again, Checa didn't help his cause at times in 2012. A bizarre tyre error at Assen left him out of the points, while he had no-one else to blame but himself for his falls at Donington Park, Misano and Nurburgring. Additionally, the margin to new team-mate Davide Giugliano didn't always reflect the gulf in their experience at this level.
Still, Checa plugged away and at least did enough to secure fourth in the standings. Though not a patch on his 2011 efforts, he still out-scored the likes of Jonathan Rea, Eugene Laverty and Leon Haslam.
It remains to be seen how he fares on the much vaunted Ducati 1199 Panigale, now under the stewardship of Alstare, but Checa may well appreciate coming into 2013 as more of an underdog this time.
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2012:
9. Loris Baz
10. Leon Camier
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