Carlos Checa has taken a potentially crucial step towards the 2011 World Superbike Championship title after his comfortable lights-to-flag victory at the Nurburgring was complemented by the pre-race withdrawal of key rival Max Biaggi.
Having smashed the lap record during practice and topped most timed sessions prior to race day, the Althea Ducati rider had been a comfortable favourite for victory around the German circuit.
However, he was offered the opportunity to relax before the race even started after Biaggi, who began the weekend 62 points behind Checa, opted against starting due to the foot injury sustained on Friday.
With no Aprilia lining up alongside him, Checa dived into the tight opening bend with the lead, while Noriyuki Haga, Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty slotted in behind him.
Inspired by the memories of his wins around the German circuit in 2008 and 2010, Haga set about causing an upset, nosing ahead of Checa twice, first down the home straight at the start of lap two – to which Checa responded with a calm re-pass into turn one -, before the Japanese rider dived beneath his rival at the final bend.
Nonetheless, Checa would simply cruise back past the satellite Aprilia rider on lap three, the Spaniard proceeding to gap his rivals with a series of good, consistent lap times.
Haga gave chase until lap six when Melandri swept past into second position, while Laverty kept a watching brief in fourth until he ran off the circuit at RTL and dropped almost three seconds behind. Bizarrely, Melandri would commit an almost identical error on the following lap, allowing Haga back up to second, while Laverty used his momentum to pass his Yamaha team-mate on the run to the NGK chicane.
Undeterred, Melandri snatched back third on lap ten and set about closing the gap to Haga ahead of him, an endeavour he successfully completed when he catapulted past on the home-straight at the start of lap sixteen.
It was as high as Melandri could go, however, with Checa affording himself the chance to back off in the closing stages to allow his rivals to get to within two seconds off him at the chequered flag.