Photography By: Gold & Goose
Reigning World Champion Carlos Checa rode a tactically brilliant race on his Althea Racing Ducati to win the first of two World Superbike legs at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari Circuit in Imola, Italy.
Third on the grid, the Spaniard quickly slotted into second and stalked pole-sitter Tom Sykes and his factory Kawasakifor 11 laps before passing him on the 12th in the double right Acqua Minerale. The following lap Checa began to pull away by breaking the lap record he'd set only last year, and clearing the lap with a healthy gap of 1.807 seconds
Checa continued to pour on the heat while Sykes struggled with fading tires. The gap was nearly four seconds two laps from the end before Checa backed off to win his second race of the year, and second in a row, by 3.206 seconds.
The win put Checa ahead of Sykes in the championship standings and eight points shy, 58-50, of Aprilia Racing's Max Biaggi, the fourth-place finisher.
Biaggi ran third until the 17th of 21 laps when he was passed by BMW Motorrad's Leon Haslam. Haslam had started fifth, moving into fourth on the fourth lap and finding himself more than three seconds behind the former World Champion a lap later. Then the Briton went to work, whittling away the gap until he was within striking distance on lap 14. Haslam's first move nearly ended badly, but a corner later he was cleanly through and onto the podium, his fourth for BMW.
Aprilia Racing's Eugene Laverty recovered from an early race gaffe to finish fifth. Laverty had moved from sixth to fourth on the second lap when he ran off the track on lap three. That dropped him to sixth, and he'd fall back one spot before launching his comeback. Three laps from the end he passed Pata Racing Team Ducati's Lorenzo Zanetti to take fifth.
Zanetti's lap times suffered over the final few laps, as did his placing, the Italian dropping from sixth to eighth on the final lap. Taking over sixth was the charging Marco Melandri on the second factory BMW. Racing with home field advantage, Melandri was in seventh on lap two when he ran off course, dropping to 16th. That put him on a race-long fight for redemption that ended with his pass of Zanetti on the final lap.
Also taking advantage of the fading Zanetti was Spaniard Joan Lascorz. The Spaniard had chased Melandri from mid-race and missed out on sixth by a tenth of a second.
Ninth went to Honda World Superbike's Jonathan Rea. Rea was at less than full strength after a dramatic Superpole highside on Saturday afternoon. Behind Rea came Niccolo Canepa on the Red Devils Roma Ducati 1098R.
Crescent Fixi Suzuki's John Hopkins finished his first race of the season in 13th place. The Californian had missed the Australian season-opener after breaking his right hand in a pre-season crash. This was his first race weekend and, though his hand wasn't a bother, he admitted he wasn't race-fit. Teammate Leon Camier didn't make it through the first lap. The Brit crashed in turn five on the first lap after coming together with Lascorz.
Later on the first lap two more riders were eliminated. Sylvain Guintoli (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati) highsided in front of Chaz Davies (ParkinGO MTC Racing Ducati), with Davies unavoidably hitting his fallen motorcycle.
World Superbike Results:
1. Carlos Checa (Ducati)
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
3. Leon Haslam (BMW)
4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
5. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
6. Marco Melandri (BMW)
7. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)
8. Leon Zanetti (Ducati)
9. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
10. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)
13. John Hopkins (Suzuki)