Carlos Checa has expressed his 'surprise' at finishing the two-day official World Superbike pre-season test with the fastest time, claiming he wasn't expecting the new Ducati 1199 Panigale to be so competitive at this early stage.
Checa gives the much anticipated twin-cylinder machine its race debut at Phillip Island this weekend, but while he was expecting to spend the early rounds building up the Ducati's competitiveness after a disrupted winter of development, his lap time of 1min 31.059secs during testing suggests he will be a reckoned force from the off.
Indeed, the 2011 champion was thrilled to be so fast given it is the first time new team collaborators Alstare have had a chance to really test the bike in uncompromised conditions.
“I'm extremely happy with the results; it was a nice surprise to make the fastest lap, with everybody riding in the same conditions. I honestly didn't believe that we'd be at this level at this point; I thought I'd finish about seventh.
“We were already able to find a good base setting yesterday and then continued to work from there today. I like the fact that every change we make to this bike is positive and it seems that everything we do results in us going in the right direction. The team are working really well together and this is the first time this year that we've had good conditions that have allowed us to spend a lot of time on the bike.
A winner in four of the last five WSBK races to be held around Phillip Island, Checa is particularly excited about the year ahead, noting that there is 'room for improvement'.
“Working on this new project right now is one of the most satisfying moments of my life. It is an exciting challenge and today's results show that the bike has great potential and that there is still room for improvement.”
The Ducati 1199 replaces the 1198/1098, which was victorious on its WSBK debut with Troy Bayliss
in 2008 ahead of the Australian's dominant run to the title.