Checa On Top In Australia

Gordon Ritchie | February 21, 2010

Privateer Ducati rider Carlos Checa set the quickest time of the first day of track action at the official tests in Phillip Island, taking his Althea Ducati to a 1:31.959 lap time. In his first-ever season on a V-twin four-stroke, he praised his team for its understanding of the machine to allow him to find a set-up good enough to beat all his peers after a full day of testing, at a circuit he knows well.His pace was less than one second slower than the track best in this class, 1:31.050, which was set by Regis Laconi in qualifying for the 2009 race – on another Ducati 1098R.”A very good start, quite positive,” Checa said. “We didn’t expect this performance this early and especially not at this track, which is not easy. But we know that the Ducati can work quite well here and we arrived in Phillip Island after a quite good job in testing at Valencia. The team’s understanding of the bike is good, and also they helped me a lot to understand how to ride this bike in the right way. The feeling on the bike is special and so far it is a good experience to ride it.”With one more day of action coming from the tests in Australia, it will be a matter of real interest to see how Checa’s fly-by-wire privateer desmo performs, particularly against an even more motivated Michel Fabrizio. The official Ducati Xerox machine of Fabrizio was second quickest in the opening sessions, .390 of a second behind the classy Checa around the 2.75-mile circuit.”We went quite well, but the pace of Carlos Checa was very, very fast,” Fabrizio said. “I have a new engineer and we are working well. We made things better as we changed more and more on the bike, but we just ran out of time in the afternoon session. We did not so bad, and I am sure we can improve tomorrow if the conditions remain good.”The weather on day one was kind and clear and both top riders set their best times in the afternoon session, when track surface temperatures reached 46°C. But in the slightly cooler morning session, Alstare Suzuki’s Leon Haslam was still fast enough for third in the combined times, with Ducati Xerox’s Noriyuki Haga fourth.Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Jonathan Rea pushed his CBR1000RR to fifth place, just over half a second behind leader Checa, while another British rider, Shane Byrne (Ducati Althea) was sixth.”I think today was really a very good day,” Byrne said. “At the beginning everything was fine while in the middle we struggled just a little bit, but in the end the team finished by doing a very good job. Compliments to Carlos [Checa] for his very impressive lap time. In the last few minutes we tried a softer tire only on the rear wheel without changing the front tire, and I was not able to improve my best lap time as much as I hoped to do. But overall, I’m really pleased because this morning I was in sixth position, but this afternoon I ended up in fourth position [the second session] and this means I’m close to the top.”After suffering many injuries in 2009, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Max Neukirchner proved himself fast and focused on day one, going seventh, heading off Max Biaggi, on the leading Aprilia Alitalia machine. A top day for the private Ducatis in general saw Jakub Smrz ninth on his Pata B&G Racing 1098R, while DFX Ducati rider Lorenzo Lanzi rounded out the top 10.Leading Yamaha rider was James Toseland – 11th quickest – while the top Kawasaki lap was set by Tom Sykes, 13th fastest of 23 riders.Top local rider proved to be BMW’s Troy Corser and the local favorite was also the highest ranked BMW rider in 14th.Sylvain Guintoli was moving himself into position on day one, 12th from 24 riders on his Suzuki, despite suffering jet lag because of cancelled flights and delays on his way to the airport leaving from Europe.For the other riders on the green machines, it was a tough opening day, with Chris Vermeulen only 17th. Mateeo Baiocco and Roger Lee Hayden brought up the tail in 23rd and 24th, respectively, on their Kawasakis.


Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider Kenan Sofuoglu proved the fastest Supersport World Championship rider on display on the first day of Phillip Island testing, thanks to his morning time of 1:’34.691. He was very close to his own track best of 1:34.320 with his opening day time, and has one more day to try and improve his pace even more.Katsuaki Fujiwara’s 1:35.042 was enough for second overall, and also enough to hold off his teammate Joan Lascorz. Although Lascorz was the fastest rider in the afternoon session, it was run at a slower pace than the morning outings.Michele Pirro was displaced to fourth by Lascorz’s late improvement, but he was still ahead of Fabien Foret, Eugene Laverty and two-time World Champion Sebastian Charpentier. ‘Seb’ was fastest Triumph BE-1 rider today, as he makes a comeback to the class in 2010.Triumph BE1 rider David Salom improved to eighth, Miguel Praia jumping up to ninth on his Parkalgar Honda.

Briefly…Parkalgar Honda had a novel way of saving weight for their freight allowance on equipment for Australia, send only three bikes and not four, leaving more room in the crates and weight for spares and additional parts. Eugene Laverty fell on the opening day when the wind got under his machine’s fairing, but his machine was so lightly damaged he re-used the fairing panel on the side where his machine went over.

There were a few Superbike crashers on day one, notably Josh Brookes twice, Cal Crutchlow had one fall and one technical problem, and Ruben Xaus had a small off as well. Brookes is replacing the injured Broc Parkes in the CRS Honda team. Parkes has a nasty lower leg injury, which needed a pin to support it, suffered in a motocross training crash a short time before the tests were due to commence. Brookes was a last-minute high caliber replacement, with no British Superbike commitments until the British season starts in early April. After that, if Parkes is still not fit, Honda will have to work on another rider replacement, in the one-man ECHO CRS team which has now been promoted to a supported team in 2010.

James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow had many modifications in place for their R1 machines at PI, but on the first day they spent their time chasing a set-up and having limited success, ending day one in 11th (Toseland) and 15th (Crutchlow).

Ducati simply owned the Phillip Island track on day one, with all six competing 1098R machines inside the top 10, and no Ducati ranked lower than 10th, in a field of 24 testers. New Ducati Superbike chief Ernesto Marinelli even stated that he was happy to be second behind Checa, as it proved the close link between the factory and customer Ducatis. Many of the four-cylinder teams pointed out that they think it will be different come the end of the tests, and particularly in the races next weekend.

The Reitwagen BMW team have been testing in Australia recently, therefore this was their first chance to measure themselves against their rivals on track. With a nearly standard engines and standard rear swingarms, the pairing of Andrew Pitt and Roland Resch were 17th and 21st, respectively. Pitt was faster on day one than Phillip Island first timer Leon Camier.

Gordon Ritchie | World Superbike Editor

You may not understand Ritchie and his Scottish accent if you had him on the phone, but you can definitely understand what he writes as our World Superbike editor.