Checa Ends Pre-Season on Top

Cycle News Staff | February 22, 2011

Ducati Althea Racing’s Carlo Checa finished the World Superbike pre-season with the fastest time on the track where he’ll begin his quest for the championship in three days’ time.The Spaniard, who won the second race of opening round here a year ago, finished the test under the previous track best in the third session of the two days, posting a new record of 1:30.578 mins. The previous fastest lap of the track was 1:31.050 mins. set by Regis Laconi in 2009.Checa’s gap to second fastest Sylvain Guintoli (Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati) was a healthy .618 sec. The times behind the Frenchman were much closer, with second through ninth all on the same second.”It was a very positive test and a fantastic lap time,” Checa said. “I was a bit worried before because I had not done so much testing and I arrived here and was not sure if we had enough time on the bike. During the winter I did a race, then I went to the desert, then some motocross, and it was all a bit confusing. Portugal testing was not so positive because of the weather, so I arrived here without the required full confidence. But we’ve been able to grow up very quick from the first day, the pace of the bike at this track is good, I feel very close with the team and that’s why I’m in this position.”Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea finished with the third fastest time, though his test didn’t end well. Rea crashed early in the last session, injuring his left wrist and the ring finger on his left hand. He was flown to a local hospital and missed most of the afternoon session.”I’m so frustrated because we were just about there on race pace and everything was feeling really good,” Rea said. “Early in this afternoon’s session, I was in turn three and winding it on when I suddenly felt the rear squirming and then I realised the bike was on fire. Basically I had to get off it quickly and unfortunately it was at 130mph, which is quick enough.”My finger and wrist are sore – in fact I’m pretty sore all over – but I’m still waiting for the final diagnosis. At the moment it’s too early to know how I’ll be feeling at the weekend, but I certainly didn’t want to start this season the way I finished the last one. I know it’s one of those things that you don’t expect and can’t prepare for, but it’s nobody’s fault and we’ll just have to hope I can be back on it soon.”Rea’s crash left a residue of cement dust on the racing line, which hampered the efforts of the 23 riders to improve their best times.Jakub Smrz (Ducati Effenbert – Liberty Racing) was fourth fastest and the third Ducati in the top four. Kawasaki’s WSB rookie Joan Lascorz finished with the fifth fastest time in front of world champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia). Biaggi was one of few riders whose best time came in the final session.

“I am really happy with the bike and the team,” Lascorz said. “The transition to riding a Superbike around Phillip Island compared to a Supersport bike has been smooth and steady. Not easy, but we have made progress and set a decent lap time.”I had basically the same crash as Tom (Sykes), at the hairpin. I was pushing only a little bit but we hit the limit and fell. I landed on my right shoulder so I did not hurt the left one, which is still not quite back to full strength. I am fine, no problems. My only question now is having enough power in my upper body to push the bike around the way I want in the races. I do not know what is possible for me on Sunday, because I still have to build up my left shoulder to full strength. We will see how it goes. We just need to work on our strategy for the races now.”The top Suzuki was ridden by Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) to the seventh fastest time, just in front of fellow Italian Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike). Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty was ninth after completing 142 laps of the 2.66-mile track over two days.”Although the two days were generally OK, I am disappointed that I didn’t go any faster,” Fabrizio said. “I had a lot of front end chatter and that was mainly due to the fact that the front tire was too hard. I know if I had been able to use a softer front today I would’ve gone at least four tenths of a second quicker. It was a bit frustrating because the rest was more or less OK. I had a little crash this afternoon and that was because the front end was too hard and I couldn’t feel exactly what it was doing and I couldn’t get enough feedback. Fortunately I only hurt two fingers of my right hand and even the bike wasn’t really damaged – just a broken footpeg and a few scrapes on the fairing.”Said Melandri, “I am very happy because I feel a big improvement from my shoulder. The second day was still quite difficult though, I didn’t ride a lot as my shoulder was having some pain. The bike has made a small improvement over the last test and we have a good plan to make it even better for the race. My physical condition for the race distance is a question mark but we will see what happens on Sunday.”Tom Sykes was tenth fastest on the second Kawasaki, despite crashing in the final session. Joining Sykes on the ground at the end of the day were Melandri, Fabrizio, and Lascorz.The riders now have two days off before track action begins again in qualifying this Friday, February 25.

Combined times:

1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1’30.578

2. Guintoli S. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1’31.196

3. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’31.206

4. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 1’31.654

5. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’31.866

6. Biaggi M. (ITA)Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1’31.870

7. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1’32.113

8. Melandri M. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R1 1’32.122

9. Laverty E. (IRL) Yamaha YZF R1 1’32.137

10. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’32.272

11. Haga N. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1’32.299

12. Waters J. (AUS) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1’32.394

13. Xaus R. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 1’32.405

14. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 1’32.413

15. Toseland J. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 1’32.880

16. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 1’32.994