Ernesto Marinelli has paid tribute to Carlos Checa following his announcement that he is to retire from motorcycle racing after 20 years of international competition.

The 2011 World Superbike Champion has decided to call time on a long and successful career following a difficult 2013 season, the Spaniard exiting the sport as one of the few riders to score wins at 500cc/MotoGP and WSBK level

With a series of crashes and subsequent injuries prompting Checa to hang up his leathers for good at the age of 41-years-old, he will now assume the role of 'Ducati Ambassador' having established himself as one of the most coveted members of the manufacturer's prestigious roll call.

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Competing with the Italian firm in MotoGP for a single season in 2005, it was Checa's decision to join Althea Racing's satellite Ducati outfit in World Superbikes in 2010 that marked a pivotal moment in his later career. Indeed, though the announcement that Checa - who many had discounted as a race win contender - would join a little-fancied privateer team drew little attention initially, three unexpected race wins and an overall third place in the standings, ahead of the factory riders, in that season would transform his reputation.

When Ducati proceeded to withdraw its full-factory backing from the series and instead turned to providing support for Althea Racing, Checa would prove unstoppable in 2011, notching up an incredible 15 races wins in 26 races to dominate the season.

Assuring his place in World Superbike history, though the experienced racer's 2012 and 2013 seasons wouldn't quite reach the same lofty heights, Ducati SBK Project Manager Ernesto Marinelli says Checa's contribution to the manufacturer's Superbike effort has been truly invaluable.

"The decision that Carlos has taken is a very important one. Carlos has carried out key, constructive work for us over the years together, and the winning of the world title in 2011 is proof that, together, we have been able to achieve important goals. It goes without saying that we are extremely appreciative and it's important that we show him this with our affection and recognition."

"We will continue to collaborate in the future, and having him as an ambassador of our brand is an honour for us, and will surely please all of the ducatistas. I therefore like to think that this is not the end of a book but simply the start of a new chapter."