Checa the irresistible force takes two Phillip Island race wins
Ever since his first sessions in the official IMS tests at Phillip Island earlier this week Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) made himself a force to be reckoned with in front of 63,200 spectators at Phillip Island.
On the opening day of the new season the Superpole winner made himself a convincing double race winner. Checa hit the front early in each 22-lap race, and enjoyed clear air almost throughout in the dry track conditions.
Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia), Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad) and new SBK force Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) all joined Checa on the podium at some stage, but it was a day to remember for all in Althea. Carlos now leaves Australia with 50 points in the bag, Biaggi has 40 for his two second place finishes, and Melandri and Haslam share 27 points, as they swapped third and fifth place places.
Checa’s winning margin over Biaggi in Phillip Island race 1 was clear evidence of the Althea man’s domination. Checa took the lead from Laverty on lap 3 and steadily pulled out to an unchallenged 4-second gap at the flag. Biaggi soon realized it was not possible to keep the pace of Checa and settled for second.
The podium was completed by Haslam who held off both Yamaha riders, Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri, who exchanged places right at the flag in a sprint finish. Sixth was Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), who made a great recovery that saw him finish ahead of Jakub Smrz (Ducati Effenbert – Liberty Racing) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing). Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) was running in the top 6 but slipped down to 12th after an off-track excursion, while front row man Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati Effenbert – Liberty Racing) crashed out and did not take part in race 2, after picking up a series of injuries to his right hand, knee and shoulder-blade.
Carlos Checa: “Here we have something extra, maybe the bike works really well at this track and I like it as well. We did a great job in testing, practice and qualifying but you never know, conditions can change. I started well and made a gap, controlled the race, went fast lap by lap, but it’s a fantastic winning start for me and the team.”
Max Biaggi: “A very good result because the last two years at Phillip Island we were struggling and far behind. The twins are always a bit better on this track but I don’t want to take anything away from Checa, he did a fantastic race. We did our best, I came close at some stage but my wheel was spinning so I couldn’t go faster.”
Leon Haslam: “A third place is like a win for me at this stage, we’ve come on a lot this last week and the boys have worked fantastic. I’m looking forward to having a look at the data because we had a few issues and still managed to get on the podium. Hopefully the team can work its magic in race 2.”
Race 1: 1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 34’16.503; 2. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 4.365; 3. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 10.719; 4. Laverty E. (IRL) Yamaha YZF R1 11.266; 5. Melandri M. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R1 11.293; 6. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 12.039; 7. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 20.294 8. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 20.742; 9. Haga N. (JPN )Aprilia RSV4 Factory 22.421; 10. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 25.822; 11. Rolfo R. (ITA) Kawasaki ZX-10R 29.270; 12. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 31.059; 13 Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 31.721; 14. Badovini A. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 36.389; 15. Staring B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-10R 36.470; 16. Xaus R. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 41.928; etc.
Again no one was able to run with Checa and he finished a clear distance ahead of Biaggi again, 1.118 seconds at the flag. The reigning world champion battled it out for the runner-up slot in the final stages with an impressive Melandri just getting the edge at the line after some very impressive close-quarter racing from each rider.
Rea emerged from a battering and bruising weekend with a fourth place that partially repaid him for his testing misfortunes when he crashed heavily more than once, and then again twice yesterday. Rea finished ahead of the two Leons, Haslam and Camier (Aprilia Alitalia), the latter making a great charge through in race two, despite suffering with illness during race weekend.
Carlos Checa: “It wasn’t easy at all. I went into first position as soon as I can, but Haslam was not easy to pass at all. From there I tried to make my place on the track, but I know they were fighting behind me and two seconds lead wasn’t perfect. This is the best start for me, 50 points here in Australia.”
Max Biaggi: “Two second places in Australia is a very good result. It’s good to come back here after we struggled the last two years. Thanks to my team and crew, we’ve been working very well these days. It was good battling with Marco, the Yamaha has potential and I think they can do a good race, and Haslam as well. It makes it better for the competition.”
Marco Melandri: “It’s been an amazing day for me after not such a good race 1. I didn’t have a good feeling with the bike so we sat down with our team and they made a good job on the bike for race 2. I could ride so much stronger, I started more aggressive, and it felt very good to be back on the podium after such a long time, I’m just a bit disappointed not to beat Max for second place.”
Race 2: 1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 34’15.041 (171,308 kph); 2. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1.188; 3. Melandri M. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R1 1.406; 4. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 10.563; 5. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 10.885; 6. Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 16.914; 7. Haga N. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 17.558; 8. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 17.679; 9. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 18.070; 10. Xaus R. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 19.053 11. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 19.060; 12; Rolfo R. (ITA) Kawasaki ZX-10R 23.771; 13. Waters J. (AUS) Suzuki GSX-R1000 23.956; 14. Toseland J. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 28.713; 15. Laverty E. (IRL) Yamaha YZF R1 32.673; 16. Aitchison M. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-10R 33.226; etc.
Points (after 1 round of 13): 1. Checa 50; 2. Biaggi 40; 3. Melandri 27; 4. Haslam 27; 5. Fabrizio 18; 6. Rea 17; 7. Haga 16; 8. Sykes 15; 9. Laverty 14; 10. Smrz 14; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 50; 2. Aprilia 40; 3. Yamaha 29; 4. BMW 27; 5. Suzuki 18; 6. Honda 17; 7. Kawasaki 15.
– Audio Downloads – Superpole – Race One
– Pictorials – Gallery A – Gallery B – Gallery C
– Althea Ducati Report
The 2011 World Superbike Championship began in the best possible way for the Althea Racing team and Carlos Checa who, after a weekend of domination, stormed to victory in both of today’s races at Phillip Island. It was a perfect weekend for Carlos and his Ducati 1198; he finished every session in front and snatched pole before running away with the double victory this afternoon.
Race 1: unfortunately certain sections of the track were still damp after a shower earlier in the day. Carlos nevertheless got away fast, finding himself in second position, behind Laverty on the Yamaha, by the end of the first lap. The Spanish rider made light work of passing Laverty a couple of laps later, to take command of the race. He immediately began to build up a gap and by mid-race he had a four second advantage over Biaggi in second position. Checa made no mistakes in managing the last phase and won this first race in convincing style, ahead of Biaggi (Aprilia), second, and Haslam (BMW), third.
Race 2: Carlos was once again in second place at race start; after the first corners, he was able to find a way past Haslam to take the lead, but the Englishman quickly responded. During the following lap Checa was back on the attack and this time he regained control in definitive fashion. From that point on, he ran a solitary race, managing his advantage in a near replica of race 1. He passed the chequered flag with an advantage of more than a second over Biaggi and Melandri in second and third respectively.
After the first of thirteen Superbike events, Carlos Checa, with today’s points, commands the rider’s classification with 50 points while, thanks to Carlos’ performance, Ducati leads the way in the manufacturer’s standings.
Carlos Checa (Race 1 – winner, Race 2 – winner)
“The sessions went extremely well and we knew we had good rhythm but you never know what might happen in the races, especially if you find a wet track on Sunday morning, as we did today. My strategy was to get ahead and keep pace as I knew my pace was stronger than that of my rivals. In Race 1, once past Laverty, I was able to find a good rhythm. It was a really great race. Every so often you have a weekend like that and we were lucky to be able to start the season in such a fantastic way. Race 2 was very similar, I managed the situation and we did it! A really great weekend in which we dominated from start to finish. We were also lucky with the weather; we couldn’t have asked for a better start. I want to thank Ducati and the team for believing in me. Next we head to Donington where we’ll continue to give 100%.”
Genesio Bevilacqua, General Manager di Althea Racing
“We completed all of the session, in fact the entire weekend, impeccably and everything went right. Carlos was extremely focused on the races and never lost concentration, not even when his rivals got closer at the end of the Superpole. We had worked on pace during the session so were in the right position at the start of the races. I want to thank the team, the boys coordinated everything perfectly, and also Carlos for his qualities both as a person and as a rider. I also thank Ducati who I believe can be satisfied with these results. Finally I thank our sponsors who continue to support us in these economically difficult times.”
– Yamaha Report
Yamaha World Superbike Team rider Marco Melandri ended his podium drought this afternoon, stepping up to take third position in the second World Superbike race, his first podium since 2009. The World Superbike rookie started well from his second row position, closing in on defending World Champion Max Biaggi and pushing him to the race finale, interchanging for second position a number of times before finally settling for third at the line, less than 1.5 seconds from double race winner Carlos Checa.
The first race of the day saw both Melandri and his teammate Eugene Laverty start well, Laverty impressing by leading the first two laps of his first ever Superbike race, before dropping back to swap positions with Melandri several times. Laverty claimed fourth and Melandri fifth at the line. Both riders had struggled a bit for rear grip in the first race, and Laverty also from arm pump, problems which were rectified by team set up changes and help from Clinica Mobile prior to race two.
Laverty’s second race began with the young Northern Irishman pressing on and holding sixth position until lap eight when a false neutral caused him to run wide, losing valuable time and positions. The same issue was repeated on lap 11, dropping him to 20th position by lap 15. Despite the setback Laverty fought back, pushing back up over seven laps to claim 15th at the line.
As they head to Donington in the UK for the second round of the championship, they do so with Melandri sitting in third in the overall standings with 27 points, his teammate Laverty sits in ninth with 14 points, 13 behind Melandri.
Marco Melandri, Yamaha World Superbike Team / 5th, 3rd
“I’m pretty happy with the end results of today, although I wasn’t too happy about race one. We’ve been struggling all week with a rear grip issue, which could be seen in race one. I think we made a good job before race two, changing our set up to deal with it and we were a little bit more aware of our potential afterwards. The bike was a lot better and I felt a lot more comfortable. It’s nice to be back on the podium! I wanted to challenge Biaggi for second but in the end my body was slower than my mind at the end of the race, it felt a bit dangerous to make some passes so I was happy to settle for third.”
Eugene Laverty, Yamaha World Superbike Team / 4th, 15th
“In the first race I had problems with arm pump and had just to sit there, I had the possibility to go third but didn’t want to risk my arms. I got it fixed at Clinica, it was just really stiff after five days riding on a Superbike this week! Marco upped the pace in second race; it would have been tough to beat, but there was a definite fourth there for me. Unfortunately two false neutrals killed the race leaving me with one point. On the plus side I’m very positive for Donington, we’ve clearly got a very competitive package and under race conditions we can see that our competitors aren’t as fast as the practice sessions suggested.”
Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager – Andrea Dosoli
“Today we got confirmation that all the work we have done is in the right direction. We struggled a bit in race one, both riders complained about a lack of rear grip and we could see we where slow in the last sector. With just a few adjustments we improved the bike for race two, so Marco could follow Max and, at the end, the gap to Carlos Checa was not as big as in race one so he kept a good race pace. Eugene did a great job in race one and he was doing in the same in race two. He really impressed us with a fantastic start he showed he could work under pressure and ride in a tough race. He put in the same performance in race two, unfortunately getting a couple of false neutrals and running off, losing ten seconds each time. If not for this he could have been on the podium.
We showed this weekend that the performance of the team is high with both riders so we should be proud, especially considering this is the first time they have run a two race event on a Sunday. Thank you to all the team for a good job done so far and we will try to be even more competitive at Donington.”
Yamaha R6 returns with instant victory as Scassa Takes First World Supersport Victory
Yamaha ParkinGo rider Luca Scassa made it a day to remember this afternoon, enjoying an adrenalin filled battle in the top five for the duration of the World Supersport race. The Italian World Supersport rookie made good use of the R6’s superior performance to charge through the pack, leading for some laps before dropping back again. He then passed Sam Lowes on the final straight for a photo finish, claiming victory by just 0.009 seconds.
Scassa’s teammate Chas Davies had a less fortunate afternoon. Having found a perfect setup for the Phillip Island circuit, Davies had been in contention for the podium for the majority of the race, fighting alternate for second and third position until a flat tyre forced early retirement on lap 18.
Scassa heads to the next round at Donington in the UK leading the championship with a full 25 points, teammate Davies goes keen to get off the points mark and catch up to his Italian stablemate.
Today’s victory marks the first race for the officially supported Yamaha R6 since it won the World championship in 2009 with Cal Crutchlow. An impressive result for the Yamaha ParkinGO Team considering the collaboration with Yamaha was started just six weeks ago.
– BMW Report
It has been a good start to the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport. In race 1, Leon Haslam (GBR) secured the team its first podium finish of the season. The team leaves Australia with 33 points in the team standings (fourth overall). Leon lies fourth in the riders’ championship (27 points), Troy Corser (AUS) lies 14th (six points).
In race 1, both riders made good starts. After one lap, Leon was still defending his fourth position, while Troy had passed Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz. After just a couple of laps, Troy suffered badly from a lack of grip and chattering. He was not able to hold his position and finished tenth.
Leon had some tough battles with Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. On lap 17 he passed Marco and was able to defend third until the chequered flag. Leon made a brilliant start in the second race and was first into turn 1. He struggled with the bike’s set-up and therefore was not able to defend this position. He finished the race fifth. Lying fourth, Troy found a false neutral on lap nine and fell back to eleventh. In the second half of the race he faced massive tyre degradation and finished the race only 19th .
Result Race 1: 3rd, Gap to 1st: 00:10.719 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1:32.266 min
Result Race 2: 5th , Gap to 1st: 00:10.885 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1:32.560 min
“As a team we have made huge steps forward from two weeks ago. We still have some issues that need looking at in more detail to ensure we can become regular podium finishers, but on the whole we should be happy with the two races. The first race was great; we encountered some issues in race, two but still managed to finish in the top five, so we are definitely happy. A huge credit goes to the team for their efforts this weekend, but we now have to sit down and work out in detail how we plan to make that next step forward.”
Result Race 1: 10th , Gap to 1st : 00:25.822 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1:32.287 min
Result Race 2: 19th , Gap to 1st : 00:55.738 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1:32.355 min
“We started the race well, I felt good on the bike, but sadly I found a false neutral going into Honda corner and I went off the track. I rejoined down the field and then really struggled for grip. As the race progressed the tyre became really worn and I was losing traction everywhere, I simply couldn’t do the times I wanted. We have identified some points that need addressing before Donington Park, but certainly I am looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director):
“Today has been a very rewarding end of what was a tough weekend. Leon did incredibly well and took a well-deserved podium finish for our team. Troy really had to fight with the bike. We now have to analyse the data on his side. I am proud of the entire team – both the guys here at the track, and also the people in Stephanskirchen and Munich. We all fly back home tonight happy and satisfied. But we are hungry for more. These results will not be a one off. We will not have a rest. In four weeks we will race in Donington, and preparations for the first European races have already begun.”
– Castrol Honda Report
Castrol Honda rider Jonathan Rea battled to fourth position in today’s second race of the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike championship at Phillip Island in Australia. His team-mate Ruben Xaus took a top ten finish in the same race as Spaniard Carlos Checa won both outings.
After three heavy crashes during testing and qualifying at Phillip Island, Rea started today’s two 22-lappers at Phillip Island from the third row of the grid. A good start in the first outing saw the 24-year-old fighting for a potential podium position before he overshot turn four on lap 14, eventually taking 12th place.
Rea was unable to repeat his first race start in the second outing, finishing lap one in 11th place. He passed several riders, including fellow Briton Leon Haslam on the final lap, however, to take a hard-earned fourth at the flag.
Xaus endured a tough opening race, with handling and clutch issues restricting the Spaniard to 16th place. However, a major chassis change for race two enabled Xaus to match the lap times of leading riders and, barring a mistake on lap one, he might have finished higher than his eventual tenth place.
Jonathan Rea – 12th and 4th
I’m absolutely drained but I guess pretty satisfied after everything we’ve been through over the last few days. I’m annoyed that I out-braked myself in race one but I had no power in my hands. I passed Nori (Haga) in race two but he came back on a big surge to the leading group and I couldn’t go with him. I didn’t have much strength but I knew I could be fitter than anyone at the end of the race to keep the lap times. The bike was working really well and I could stay in the 33s until I caught Fabrizio and Haslam, when I took a bit of a breather just to catch my breath and look at them. I could’ve passed Leon in a few places I think, but I’ve been doing most of my passing around turns seven and eight and decided to save all my energy to pass him there on the last lap. If you’d told me when I was lying in hospital on Wednesday that I’d come away from here sixth in the championship, I’d have laughed at you. Big thanks to the team, who got a physio here to help me between sessions and races to help me relax, and the bike, which never missed a beat this weekend. We still need to find a little bit of speed on the straights because I struggled passing people into turn one, but overall I’m satisfied with what we got from here.
Ruben Xaus – 16th and 10th
The first race was a disaster so we had to find something for race two and we did. I missed my braking point at turn four on the first lap and lost five places and then got caught with a slower group. I worked hard to get the places back but used up the tyres’ performance too much in the first laps. With a few laps to go they were finished but I think I could have finished higher. No complaints though – I didn’t expect this position after race one, after which we changed the bike completely. We’ve had some problems on the bike this weekend but I think we’re speaking the same language now. In the end it’s been good: we finished both races with no bad consequences and learned a lot, so I’m going to Donington with a big smile on my face.
Ronald ten Kate – team manager
Thank goodness we finished at Phillip Island on a higher note than we experienced before. We’ve had some bad luck here but race two was pretty good. Jonathan got a bad start but chipped away and did really well to finish fourth considering the state he is still in. Ruben was riding really well too, and got his first top ten finish with the team and really had a ‘clicking’ moment there with the machine. We all knew it would be a matter of time for him and it’s good that it’s happened at the first round. We’ll head back to Europe feeling positive and let Jonathan get fully fit again. We’ll check all the data for Ruben and look for another step forward for him. After everything though, without these positive points, it would have been a very, very long flight home!
– Team Suzuki Report
Team Suzuki Alstare rider Michel Fabrizio took a hard-fought sixth place in the first race of the opening round of this year’s Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island in Australia today.
But even more encouraging was the fact that he was able to battle for a podium place until his tyres started to go off, four laps from the end. The young Italian was hoping to follow up his good performance in race one with more of the same in race two, but suffered tyre chatter from the early stages of the race and had to be content with eighth place in the end. Nevertheless Fabrizio and the team are happy with their overall performance and are looking forward to the next round at Donington Park at the end of March.
Heavy overnight rain had soaked the 4.445 kilometre circuit and the morning warm-up was declared “a wet practice”. But by the time the 22 riders lined up on the grid for the first race, watched by an estimated crowd of 63,000, the track had dried and everybody was on slick tyres.
Carlos Checa (Ducati) won both 22-lap races today with Max Biaggi (Aprilia) taking a pair of runner-up spots. Leon Haslam (BMW) third place in race one and Marco Melandri (Yamaha) third in race two.
Michel Fabrizio – Race 1: 6th, Race 2: 8th:
“I am happy and I am not so happy. I am happy because I was able to fight with the top guys in both races and that is a great boost to my confidence. I didn’t know exactly what to expect in my first race with Team Suzuki Alstare and it was good to be able to battle for the podium in the first race. Maybe if I had made a good start in that race, I might have ended up on the podium. Instead, I found myself 11th at the end of lap one and then had to fight through the pack and that’s not easy because there are so many good riders and good bikes. It took some time, but I was up to seventh at half-race distance and then up to fifth after 15 laps. That’s when I was in a three way fight with Laverty, Melandri and Haslam and it was a lot of fun racing with them. Just when I thought I might be able to make a charge, my tyres started to go off and I couldn’t push as hard as I wanted. I kept attacking as hard as I could, but couldn’t get past any of them, so finished sixth.
“I used the same bike for race two and the same type of tyre and only made some small adjustments, but I started getting chattering almost right from the start. It was not an easy race by any means, but I tried to ride as hard as I could without crashing. I kept pushing wherever possible, but it wasn’t possible to push hard enough to get another top-six result. I am not so happy with eighth, but overall I think we should be pleased with our performance today. We know the season is going to be very hard this year – probably more than previous years – and to begin with good results is a great start.”
– World Supersport
On its return to World Supersport Yamaha scored a fantastic slipstreaming win as Luca Scassa took the chequered flag on the ParkinGO machine, by just 0.009 seconds from Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com). Third over the stripe as the top 3 flashed across the line was Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda), who scored a great podium in the debut race of his first full championship season. He had led out of the final turn but was overhauled by the two lead riders, and Sam was only 0.033 seconds from the winner’s time.
Fourth was pole man David Salom on the second Motocard.com Kawasaki, posting an impressive result in a race in which he was frequently the leader. Fifth went to top true privateer Robbin Harms, on his Harms Benjan Honda, while a rider who had an operation on his left knee only a few days ago, James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda), was a fighting sixth.
New boy Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) made a good recovery from a terrible start to record a top seven placing, while Vittorio Iannuzzo recovered from the disadvantage of a fifth row grid spot to take eighth. Alex Lundh and Danilo Dell’Omo rounded out the top ten. Chaz Davies and Fabien Foret failed to finish with deflated rear tyres, and Foret was riding with finger and back injuries suffered in a warm-up crash.
Results: 1. Scassa L. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R6 33’34.739 (166,792 kph); 2. Parkes B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-6R 0.009; 3. Lowes S. (GBR) Honda CBR600RR 0.033; 4. Salom D. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-6R 0.272; 5. Harms R. (DEN) Honda CBR600RR 16.969; 6. Ellison J. (GBR) Honda CBR600RR 23.943; 7. Marino F. (FRA) Honda CBR600RR 31.788; 8. Iannuzzo V. (ITA) Kawasaki ZX-6R 31.837; etc.
Points (after 1 round of 13): 1. Scassa 25; 2. Parkes 20; 3. Lowes 16; 4. Salom 13; 5. Harms 11; 6. Ellison 10; 7. Marino 9; 8. Iannuzzo 8; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Yamaha 25; 2. Kawasaki 20; 3. Honda 16; 4. Triumph 6.