After a flawless performance at the final World Superbike pre-season test at Phillip Island earlier this week, the Sunday favorite in Australia quickly became Carlo Checa.
And the Althea Ducati rider showed no signs of slowing down before Sunday’s WSBK season opener at Phillip Island, the Spaniard taking quickest times in both Free Practice 1 and the first qualifying practice on Sunday.
It didn’t look to promising for Checa when he got onto the track on Friday morning for FP1 at Phillip Island Superbike, though. The 38-year-old crashed early at Turn 2, but wasn’t harmed.
He regained his rhythm, and finished FP1 six-tenths of a second over Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea, who was questionable about this weekend’s race due having to jump from his CBR1000RR Superbike at 130 mph during Tuesday’s testing session in Australia. But Rea didn’t appear to be suffering from any pain in FP1 due to the recent superbike crash.
When the riders returned to the track for the first qualifying practice of the 2011 World Superbike Championship, Checa stormed to the top of the time sheets to take the provisional pole position, posting a 1:31.577, a tenth of a second quicker than his best FP1 lap.
Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati Superbike) says: "We worked really well today, concentrating mainly on the tires. We have a clearer idea of which race tires to use and I’d say that we’re back in a position where we’re experiencing the same sensations as last year. Unfortunately I fell this morning at the second corner.
"I was having difficulty shifting down, meaning that I hit neutral and lost the front. Anyway the problem was quickly solved by my always efficient technicians. (Friday) we worked more on tires while (Saturday) we have other things to try, but I admit that I’m feeling very confident for now."
The man who became Checa’s rival earlier this week at the pre-season test, Sylvain Guintoli, was also there with Checa during Friday’s qualifying practice session. The Effenbert – Ducati rider finished within three-tenths of a second behind Checa.
The final rider to post under the 1:32 mark was the Eugene Laverty on the Yamaha World Superbike YZF-R1.
Eugene Laverty (Yamaha Superbike) says: "I’m very satisfied with my position today, I didn’t expect to be that high up in the standings although my aim was to do a 1.31 to get me through to Superpole tomorrow, so I was expecting the lap time but not the position. We learned a bit more today for our race set up but we still need to work on a bit of consistency. Thankfully we can now focus tomorrow morning on race set up."
The reigning WSBK Champion Max Biaggi followed in fourth aboard the Aprilia RSV4. The Italian finished five-tenths of a second behind Checa.
Max Biaggi (Aprilia Superbike) says: "We still have a lot of work to do. There are problems with the engine brake which triggers a very marked chattering. We tried different solutions, even changing bikes often, but we haven’t had any great advantages. There is still work to be done just to understand what needs to be adjusted.
"The pace isn’t bad, but when I try to push it the problems I’ve mentioned come into play. I think that Checa has a pretty good advantage over us at the moment, but I need to look at my own pit and try to draw out the best from what is available to me. For tomorrow I’d like to improve on the fast lap."
Taking the fifth fastest time during the qualifying practice session was Guintoli’s teammate Jakub Smrz, making for three Ducati Superbikes in the top five on Friday. The recovering Rea would post the ninth quickest time.
One WSBK rider had a very rough day, but it wasn’t because of a crash. Biaggi’s teammate, Leon Camier, has been battling the flu. The Brit had a hard time breathing on Friday, and was 16th fastest.
Phillip Island World Superbike: Practice Qualifying 1 Results
1. Carlos Checa (Althea Racing) 1’31.577
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing) 1’31.850
3. Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team) 1’31.969
4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team) 1’32.009
5. Jakub Smrz (Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing) 1’32.066
6. Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) 1’32.082
7. Michel Fabrizio (Team Suzuki Alstare) 1’32.108
8. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) 1’32.163
9. Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) 1’32.424
10. Joshua Waters (Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team) 1’32.690
11. Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) 1’32.699
12. Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) 1’32.700
13. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Superbike) 1’32.705
14. Noriyuki Haga (PATA Racing Team Aprilia) 1’33.058
15. James Toseland (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team) 1’33.074
16. Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team) 1’33.084
17. Bryan Staring (Team Pedercini) 1’33.130
18. Maxime Berger (Supersonic Racing Team) 1’33.176
19. Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda) 1’33.411
20. Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team) 1’33.598
21. Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini) 1’33.788
22. Roberto Rolfo (Team Pedercini) 1’33.864