Checa Leads Phillip Island Qualifying

Paul Carruthers | February 25, 2010

The World Superbike men turned their first laps in anger today during the first official qualifying session of the 2010 season at the Phillip Island Circuit in Australia and the Ducatis – as was the case in the final pre-season test held at Phillip Island earlier this week – were the fastest of the fast. The surprise, however, was that it was the privateer Althea Ducati of Carlos Checa (pictured) who ended up on top in the first qualifying session for Sunday’s two races.Ducatis ruled the roost, at least on day one, with four of the V-twins in the top five at the end of the session. But none were better than Checa and his Althea Racing 1098R, the Spaniard taking control with about 35 minutes to go in the one-hour session with his best lap of 1:32.155. Checa’s session was not flawless, however, as the former Grand Prix star crashed with roughly 11 minutes to go – though he did return to the session on his back-up bike.With six minutes to go, Checa’s run at the top spot came under pressure when Ducati Xerox’s Michel Fabrizio took a run at the Spaniard only to come up just .007 of a second short.Fabrizio would hold on to second with Alstare Suzuki’s Leon Haslam finishing the session third. With 38 minutes to go, Haslam, who led the morning practice session, shot to the top of the time sheets with a 1:32.373, slightly faster than his morning mark. But that lap would go down first to Checa and then to Fabrizio.Checa’s teammate Shane Byrne completed what was a near-perfect start to the season by the Althea team with the Brit ending the day as the fourth fastest of the Superbike men.Then came the fourth of the Ducatis in the top five, the Xerox-backed factory bike ridden by last year’s World Superbike Championship runner-up Noriyuki Haga. Haga was just a few ticks quicker than Aprilia’s Max Biaggi, the Italian ending the day sixth.The first of the Hondas was ridden to seventh by Brit Jonathan Rea with Sylvain Guintoli eighth on the second Alstare Suzuki. Guintoli headed the session in the early going before slipping down the standings.Ducati-mounted Jakub Smrz and Sterilgarda Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow rounded out the top 10 as the Yamahas failed to improve much from the worrisome test the defending World Superbike Champions completed earlier this week. James Toseland was even worse off that Crutchlow as he ended the day 13th on his R1. Crutchlow, in 10th, was still within a second of Checa as the top men were all fairly close on day one.The first of the Kawasakis was ridden to 12th by former MotoGP star Chris Vermeulen while countryman Troy Corser rode the first of the BMWs to 16th. Corser suffered a crash late in the session.The lone American in the series, Roger Lee Hayden (pictured), ended the session in last place, 3.9 seconds off Checa’s best in what is his first visit to the Australian circuit. Hayden did show improvement from the morning session and also from this week’s test.

Friday Qualifying

1.                  Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:32.155

2.                  Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:32.162

3.                  Leon Haslam (Suzuki) 1:32.373

4.                  Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:32.635

5.                  Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1:32.703

6.                  Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:32.850

7.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:32.902

8.                  Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki) 1:32.902

9.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:32.905

10.                  Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:33.03824. Roger Lee Hayden (Kawasaki) 1:36.113

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.