Carlos Checa has scored his first world championship race victory in ten years after charging to glory in the first World Superbike Championship race of the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park.
Although he has shown significant pace since his switch from MotoGP to currently lie second in the overall standings, he was yet to experience the winner's champagne until now. It has been a long time too, the Spaniard last standing atop a world championship podium when he won the Madrid Grand Prix in 1998, also on a Honda.
In addition, with Troy Bayliss
failing to score after a fall, Checa has reinvigorated his title campaign by getting the points gap down to a more reasonable 53 points.
He was made to work for it though, Checa being punished for a poor start from pole position to get swamped heading into the first turn. Although he got it back to fifth place, he was still staring at the back of Bayliss, Max Neukirchner, Max Biaggi
and Noriyuki Haga.
Indeed, Biaggi and Haga were the big winners off the start line, the pair using the track's wide surface to jump up from ninth and tenth to run third and fourth.
Checa wasn't wasting time though and quickly found his way past a hobbled Haga, before passing Biaggi on lap three. Biaggi, meanwhile, would ruin his hopes of a good result when he ran wide at turn one and tumbled down the order.
Up at the front, the fast starting Bayliss found himself vulnerable down the long home straight when Neukirchner drafted past him at the start of lap two, the German rider initially pulling away from the Aussie.
However, with Checa now up to second place, Neukirchner posed little resistance for the Ten Kate rider when he swept up the inside at Black Rock Hairpin, reassuming the lead of the race.
Checa's race was about to get even better on lap five when Bayliss, who had just got himself back up to second place, suffered a dramatic fall coming out of the final turn. After losing the back end, Bayliss tried to correct it but instead high-sided off his Ducati. Narrowly avoiding being collected by Neukirchner, Bayliss then had to play dodgems as the unsighted pack came towards him. Nonetheless, with innocuous damage to both himself and his bike, it was only Bayliss' championship lead that was hurt.