To the great surprise of nobody, Carlos Checa took his, and Spain’s, and the Althea Ducati team’s, first World Superbike title at Magny-Cours in France Sunday, October 2 (it was no. 17 for Ducati).
What was a little surprising was the way he went about it.
Needing only a 13th place to score the three points he needed, he scrapped back from a mediocre start, battled with the leaders, and won. Twice, just to make his point. That would be 14 wins on the season, out of 24 races held to date – definitely championship class.
Racing at the World Championship level since 1993, this is Checa’s first title. He joined the WSB circus after 12 years in Moto GP, where he finished as high as fourth.
The races at Magny-Cours were interesting, although less than they might have been with the absence of Max Biaggi, still recovering from a broken foot. The Italian ace hopes to be ready for the season final at Portimao in Portugal in two weeks.
“It has been a perfect day, the best day of my career and probably the best day of my life … I am experiencing so many emotions and must admit that it was very difficult to keep my concentration in the final stages of race one. Then, in race two, I tried to race as fast as I could, doing what I like to do best, and was able to win once more. Now we can relax and relish in this unforgettable moment,” Checa said.
Eugene Laverty of the Yamaha Factory team did his best to spoil Checa’s day, but in race one he suffered front tire problems and faded back to fifth after leading most of the race, while in the second contest he again led, then did his best to hang on to Checa after the Spanish rider passed him. Looking good for second, he was jammed back into third on the last lap as his erstwhile team-mate Marco Melandri bulled through to grab the spot.
Both riders commented on the pass after the race; Laverty calm but obviously still a bit pissed, while Melandri looked a bit embarrassed but excused it as a last-chance, last-lap racing move. You could argue either side, for sure.
Jonathon Rea, cruelly robbed of a double win at the last race and on pole in France, was in the mix up front until he clipped a curb and crashed in the first race. In the second, he led for some time, got caught up by Laverty and Checa, then coasted to a stop as something failed on the Castrol Honda.
Leon Haslam, who’s recently re-signed with BMW for 2012, was cheered with a third and fourth, while countryman Leon Camier on the sole factory Aprilia rode well for a fourth and sixth. Haslam will be paired with Marco Melandri on the BMW team next year, it was announced on the weekend – no official word on Troy Corser, although it’s expected he’ll be retiring.
In other action, new Canadian champion Brett McCormick got a ride in the 1000 cc Superstock race with the Gamier Alpha BMW team (arranged through BMW Canada and Motorrad in Munich. He did exceptionally well to finish 13th out of 25 entries and is very much looking forward to the last race at Portimao.
And Welsh rider Chaz Davies locked up the 600 cc title on his ParkinGo Yamaha R6, finishing sixth on the day.
Next and final race, Portimao, Portugal October 16.
World Superbike standings after 12 of 13 events (24 of 26 races)
1. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 467 points, 2011 Champion
2. Marco Melandri, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 360;
3. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Yamaha Factory Racing, 283
4. Max Biaggi, Italy, Alitalia Aprilia, 281
5. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Motorrad, 216
6. Leon Camier, U.K., Alitalia Aprilia, 19
7. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Team Effenbert – Liberty Ducati, 179
8. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Pata Aprilia, 170
9. Ayrton Badovini, Italy, BMW Motorrad Italia, 155;
10. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Alstare Suzuki, 145.