Following the 2013 World Superbike Championship – the first season for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R – Carlos Checa retired from motorcycle racing.Checa had spent the previous-three years competing for the Althea Racing team aboard a Ducati 1098R, and absorbed much success. His performances aboard the 1098R – that retained the trellis frame over the Panigale’s monocoque – were highlighted in 2011 with a title win.
That season, Carlos Checa became the first Spaniard – and still the only so far – to earn a World Superbike Championship. He claimed 15 race wins in 13 rounds, and earned Ducati its 17th manufacturer’s title; it was also the first one for Ducati since Troy Bayliss in 2008 (1098 F08).Since retirement, Checa has stayed close with Ducati. Back in February, Ducati gave Checa the first 2015 Multistrada 1200 with the new DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) engine to roll off the assembly line. And this relationship continued this week at Mugello, where the 42-year-old Checa spent three days testing for the Ducati SBK development team aboard the Panigale R superbike. Checa was on hand to replace Ducati SBK’s normal test rider Lucca Scassa, who was injured during Misano SBK.For three days at the Italian circuit, Checa worked closely with Ducati Corse technicians. He supplied feedback on the Panigale R that has recently performed better in World SBK, but continues to struggle compared to bikes like the Kawasaki ZX-10R and Aprilia RSV4.Ducati says “the stable weather conditions allowed the team to work uninterrupted, with the Spaniard completing more than 150 laps over the three days and achieving impressive lap times, in line with the best obtained on race tires at the Tuscan track.”Speaking after the test, Checa said “I was pleased to ride the Panigale again and to be fast right away. It was really emotional to work with those people who helped me achieve my past results. I hope that my work over these three days has helped the team to further improve the bike, which has really grown a lot recently.“I thank Ducati and the whole development team for having given me the chance to enjoy the excitement of the track once more. I had a lot of fun and who knows, perhaps I’ll have another chance to test in the future.”Ernesto Marinelli, Ducati SBK Project Director, also commented: “It’s been emotional and informative working with Carlos once again. There is always something to be learned from a rider with his level of experience and, as is usual with him, feedback has been clear and precise.“We have carried out an intense testing program and the fact we’ve had high temperatures this week has allowed us to work on rear grip and race consistency in extreme conditions such as these. Work that will undoubtedly prove useful in the next races. Carlos came here in good shape, to complete more than 150 laps at Mugello with these temperatures is certainly not easy but he’s been very consistent throughout.”The next race for Ducati SBK team is round nine of the World Superbike Championship at Laguna Seca July 17-19 – the only round of 2015 SBK to be held in America.After eight rounds, the top Ducati rider is factory pilot Chaz Davies, who is in fourth with 213 points – 162 behind series leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team).
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.