2011 World Superbike
When Ducati pulled all factory efforts from the 2011 World Championship, the private Althea team quickly became the favorite to carry the Italian manufacturer’s weight through the series.
This was due to the man who would be piloting the Ducati 1198R – Carlos Checa. The Spaniard finished third in the 2010 World Superbike Championship, behind winner Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia) and Leon Haslam (Alstare Suzuki).
And when the 2011 WSBK season opened at Phillip Island, the Althea Ducati team showed the grid its dominance, doubling at the Australian round. The team remained in top form, winning 11 races in 10 rounds.
Now the series heads to the historic Imola in Italy this weekend for Round 11 of 13, a favorite circuit for Ducati fans. And due to his optimal performances on the private Ducati 1198 R, Checa enters Imola with a 74-point lead over Yamaha’s Marco Melandri.
With 376 points, Checa only needs 26 points to clinch the championship, which would be his first-ever at 38-year old and this is very possible, considering he doubled there last weekend. And Imola is a lucky track for the older generation of riders; at 39-years old, Biaggi clinched the 2010 World SBK Championship with one round remaining last season.
But Melandri is will have some extra incentive at Misano, also, considering it’s the third home race for the Italian (Monza, Misano), and he was quickest at the Misano testing last week.
But its been a while since Melandri competed at Imola; his last outing was in 1999 aboard a 125cc MotoGP machine, although he won that race.
The man third in the championship, Biaggi, is questionable due to breaking some bones in his foot during Nurburgring World Superbike. Biaggi hit some debris on the track during practice, and the Italian sustained a fracture to the metatarsus in his left foot kept the Corsair from riding onto the track, in spite of both Max’s and the Mobile Clinic doctors’ best efforts.
Heading into round 11 at Imola, Biaggi trails Melandri by 21 points, and Checa by 96. There were more than enough points for him to possible acheive a second title, but if he misses Imola his shot at a second title is unlikely, especially if Checa and Melandri perform in usual top form.
With their points, Checa, Melandri and Biaggi are the only riders who have a chance at the 2011 title. In fourth in the championship is Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty (232 points), with BMW’s Leon Haslam in fifth with 167 points.
As for news in machinery at Imola, the Castrol Honda CBR1000RR of Jonathan Rea will debut with “ride-by-wire” throttle control, which will give the Irishman that extra push he needs to compete with the top players.
As for wildcard entries, there will be three Italians, including one who will join Checa: Federico Sandi (Althea Racing Ducati), Matteo Baiocco and Alessandro Polita (Barni Racing Team Ducati).
The World Superbike grid will be on the 16-turn, 3.1-mile Imola circuit Friday for the first practice sessions, followed by Superpole Saturday and both races on Sunday.