Ducati may not be entered as a factory team in the 2011 World Superbike Championship, but that doesn't mean their presence won't be felt. The results of the first day of the final pre-season test of year proves the point, with the Italian machines taking the top three spots.Veteran Carlos Checa rode the Ducati Althea Racing 1098R to the top spot just days ahead of the Feb. 25-27 WSB season-opener. The Spaniard, who won the second race in last year's opening round here, raced the de facto factory machine to a time of 1:31.383 mins. in the afternoon session on the Phillip Island circuit. The time was under the 2007 lap record of 1:31.826 mins. set by Troy Corser. Regis Laconi holds the fastest ever lap of 1:31.050 mins. from Superpole 2 in 2009.
"We know the Ducati works well here and this track I really like," Checa said. "We never tested with this bike here in the winter, but from the beginning I felt comfortable. We started with the settings of last year's race and that was quite good. We changed some small things and understood some direction to take with set-up. Then it was just working with the tires and I used three different ones. Now we need to check which one will be the best for the races. So we will try a long run tomorrow. But no matter the tires we could do good lap times."Checa had nearly a comfortable nearly one second gap to the second placed rider, but from second to tenth was covered by .3 secs. and second to 14th was covered by less than a second.The Czech Republic-based Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati team took the next two spots, with Sylvain Guintoli second and teammate Jakub Smrz third.World champion Max Biaggi, who didn't ride in the morning session, was fourth fastest and only .067 sec. behind Smrz. Biaggi was one of the riders who'd tested at Phillip Island earlier in the winter.Next best was fifth fastest Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), while Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Superbike) and Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike) were sixth and seventh, respectively. Melandri's performance was a marked improvement from the previous test when he 15th fastest in Portugal while struggling to recover from off-season shoulder surgery.
Castrol Honda's Jonathan Rea, who'd run near the top for much of session, slipped to eighth by the end. BMW Motorrad's Leon Haslam was ninth in front of the second Yamaha of Eugene Laverty.Fastest of the wild cards was Australian Josh Waters. Riding the Yoshimura Suzuki, the former Australian Superbike Champion finished with the 12th fastest time in his first official outing on Pirelli tires. Bryan Staring (Pedercini Kawasaki) was 19th fastest and faster than the two regular Pedercini Kawasaki riders.
1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1'31.383
2. Guintoli S. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1'32.303
3. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 1'32.316
4. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'32.383
5. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'32.453
6. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'32.466
7. Melandri M. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R1 1'32.474
8. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1'32.532
9. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 1'32.578
10. Laverty E. (IRL) Yamaha YZF R1 1'32.600
11. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'32.940
12. Waters J. (AUS) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'33.140
13. Xaus R. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 1'33.165
14. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 1'33.255
15. Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'33.560
16. Haga N. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'33.786