Carlos Checa heads into the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike Championship as the firm favourite to take the early advantage after he maintained his stranglehold on proceedings during testing at Phillip Island.

Fresh from his record-breaking turn around the Australian circuit during session three, Checa was once again fastest in session four, despite lap times being generally down by more than a second.

Indeed, only a handful of riders made improvements during the afternoon, with the top five of Checa, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz and Joan Lascorz remaining unchanged before Max Biaggi posted the first change in sixth on the Aprilia.

It means Checa, who was considered a surprise winner aboard the Althea Ducati around the Australian circuit last season, was fastest in all but one session and is now considered the rider to beat when the curtain raising events gets underway in just three days time.

The session was marred by a series of accidents for riders, most notably Rea, whose fall at turn three early on in the session necessitated a red flag.

The Ulsterman, who was taken to hospital last week after a fall at the same circuit during private testing, was flown back via helicopter for X-rays on his left wrist and hand. The fall could now leave Rea fighting to make the grid for the start of the new season.

Elsewhere, Michel Fabrizio, Guintoli, Marco Melandri, Mark Aitchison, Tom Sykes and Lascorz all suffered tumbles, with Fabrizio, Melandri and Lascorz all taking trips to the medical centre.

Further back, Leon Haslam and James Toseland made gains to set top ten times during S4, though it was only enough for 14th and 15th overall as BMW failed to crack the top ten at the end of the two days.

Wild-card Bryan Staring, Chris Vermeulen stand-in Akira Yanagawa and Maxime Berger were the only other riders to improve in the afternoon, though they would remain down the order in 18th, 19th and 20th.

Leon Camier was once again forced to sit out the session as he struggles with illness, though he is expected to return for the opening round.



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