Checa Earns Donington Park Pole

Cycle News Staff | March 26, 2011

Although the temperatures dropped today at Donington Park in England for final qualifying and Superpole, the action stayed hot with a hard-fought pole position ultimately going to Althea Racing Ducati’s Carlos Checa.Checa, the winner of the opening two races in Australia, didn’t do much in the first Superpole 1 session, but he asserted himself in Superpole 2 and then threw down a 1:28.099 to win Superpole 3 – taking his second pole position in as many races. It was Checa’s fourth pole position of his World Superbike career.Cold temperatures stopped almost everybody from going quicker in the qualifying session, so Aprilia’s Max Biaggi went to Superpole with the best time – his 1:28.794 coming from Friday’s qualifying session. It didn’t take long for that time to take a backseat once Superpole started with BMW’s Leon Haslam clicking off a 1:28.720 on his second lap. Then he sat on it, seeing if anyone would go better in the 14-minute-long Superpole 1. And they did. Or at least one did, with Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes throwing down a surprising 1:28.548 in the final seconds to lead the way to Superpole 2.Superpole 1 eliminated two of the factory stars: Castrol Honda’s Ruben Xaus and Yamaha’s Eugene Laverty.In Superpole 2, it was Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea attacking first, but his 1:28.587 didn’t last long at the top as Checa ripped off a 1:28.189 to take over. Ducati privateer Jakub Smrz followed suit with a 1:28.294 to move to second with Haslam moving to third and Rea dropping to fourth. Then Aprilia-mounted Noriyuki Haga showed that there’s still some fight left in him as he vaulted to fifth in the second Superpole session.Biaggi barely made the cut to the third and final Superpole, the Italian posting the eighth best time. Not so fortunate was Marco Melandri, the Yamaha man joining his teammate Laverty on the sidelines. Ditto for the likes of Troy Corser, Michel Fabrizio and Joan Lascorz.With eight men vying for pole in the final eight-minute Superpole session, it was Haslam going to the top with his 1:28.365 followed by Smrz and his 1:28.561 and Sykes’ 1:28.845. Haga then made his move to third.But then it was Checa’s turn, the veteran putting down the 1:28.099 to move to the top on his second lap out of the gate. With a minute and a half to go, Biaggi went out to try and better Checa but he came up well short and wasn’t even the fastest of the Aprilias when all was said and done. That honor went to Haga in fifth.Sykes had one more good lap left in him and he put the Kawasaki on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s two races with his 1:28.556 putting him third behind Checa and Haslam. Those three will be joined on the front row by Smrz.

Superpole Final Qualifying

1.                  Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:28.099

2.                  Leon Haslam (BMW) 1:28.365

3.                  Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:28.556

4.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:28.561

5.                  Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) 1:28.673

6.                  Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:28.702

7.                  Leon Camier (Aprilia) 1:28.737

8.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:29.514

9.                  Marco Melandri (Yamaha)

10.                  Troy Corser (BMW)