Checa doubles up, Melandri on podium
27 February 2011
Carlos Checa comes away from the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike Championship with a maximum haul of 50 points after completing his second win of the day at Phillip Island.
Having cruised to a dominant victory in race one, Checa was similarly commanding in race two, making a definitive pass for the lead on lap three before stretching away to win.
A perfect start to his and Althea Ducati's season, it marks the Spaniard's sixth and seventh wins in World Superbikes, as well as his third weekend double.
Though he was beaten into the first corner once again, this time by Leon Haslam, Checa found himself in front by the end of the opening lap with an aggressive pass at MG. Superior straight line speed would see the BMW back in front at the start of lap two, but Checa would simply bide his time before easing back in front on lap three.
Quickly pulling away from the chasing pack, although his 1.1secs advantage at the finish looks fairly meagre on paper, there was never a doubt as to whom would emerge victorious.
With Checa holding station at the front, it was the fight for second between former MotoGP rivals Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri that did the job of enthralling spectators.
Having enjoyed a fairly lonely run to second in race one, Biaggi had plenty of company during race two as a poor start necessitated a determined fight back from seventh.
Battling past the BMWs of Haslam and Troy Corser, Biaggi would take Melandri with him, the pair swiftly breaking away to form their own podium battle. What followed was an entertaining exchange that evoked memories of their time in MotoGP, the Italians swapping positions continuously over the second-half of the race.
While Melandri seemingly had the measure of Biaggi through the bends, he would repeatedly see his efforts undone by his rival's ability to simply draft pass on the home straight.
It was the advantage Biaggi needed to stay ahead at the chequered flag, the reigning champion completing his second podium appearance of the day to notch up a total of 40 points.
Despite losing out to Biaggi, Melandri's can still be satisfied with a mightily impressive WSBK debut, one that suggests he will be amongst those to make a successful transition from MotoGP to Superbike racing.
Further back, Jonathan Rea bounced back from his race one disappointment to take a deserved fourth position, the Castrol Honda rider catching and passing Haslam on the final lap.
Having run at the front of the field early on, it was a frustrating race for BMW, with Haslam fading to fifth eventually, while Corser ruined his chances of a good result by running off the circuit whilst disputing second.
The same can be said for Eugene Laverty, who was up with Melandri in fifth place when he ran wide at MG and was forced to take a trip across the grass. He would recover to 15th to claim a single point.
An astonishing ride by Leon Camier would see him defy illness to finish in sixth position, the Aprilia rider even making up two places on the final lap at the expense of Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga.
Tom Sykes completed a second top ten finish of the day in ninth, but his Kawasaki team-mate Joan Lascorz comes away with a double DNF following a technical issue.
Having finished outside the points in race one, Ruben Xaus sneaked into the top ten aboard the second Castrol Honda, ahead of Jakub Smrz, Roberto Rolfo and Josh Waters, while James Toseland slipped to an eventual 14th having run as high as tenth initially.