You’ve got to hand it to former World Superbike champion Carlos Checa. Despite getting slammed to the ground during Friday’s morning practice session in a crash that the Team SBK Alstare Ducati rider described as “one of the biggest highsides of my career”, Checa kept himself in the hunt during the final qualifying and Superpole sessions, and then pulled the trigger in the third and final Superpole to steal pole position in the 1199 Panigale’s first World Championship event. Checa’s 1:30.234 lap also set a new superbike lap record for the Phillip Island circuit, after eventual third-quickest qualifier Michel Fabrizio had lowered the mark during Saturday’s pre-Superpole final qualifying session with his 1:30.387 lap.
Although he was obviously elated to have qualified on pole position, Checa’s time was set with a soft qualifying tire; his times on more durable race rubber were good, but not grand. Meanwhile second place qualifier Eugene Laverty set his time with a race tire, after the factory Aprilia rider had exhausted all his allotted soft qualifier tires. Fabrizio will also be a rider to watch for, as the privateer Red Devil Romas Aprilia rider has been fast all weekend.
Carlos Checa overcame injuries...
Carlos Checa overcame injuries and illness to put the Alstare Ducati 1199 Panigale on pole at Phillip Island.
“Winning Superpole was a great surprise for me and is down to all the hard work put in by my mechanics, the physiotherapists, and the rest of the Clinica Mobile medical staff,” said a happy Checa. “This morning, I felt pain in both my shoulder and foot and I really didn’t think I’d be competitive in qualifying and Superpole. The mechanics did a great job and made the bike easier for me to ride and by the time Superpole started this afternoon, I felt pretty good really—better than I thought I would! In Superpole, I felt no pain and could attack without a problem. I like this track and have a lot of experience here, so I was able to push hard, but I really didn’t think I'd be able to go so fast and the lap time was a bit of a surprise to me.
“I like the challenge of this project. Me and the team are all growing together and that is exciting for all us. Today was good, but we’ll have to see how the bike is in race conditions and also how the tires perform after a lot of laps. These past few days have been like heaven and hell. I missed some days testing because I was sick. Then I had a big crash yesterday and today we won Superpole! Hopefully we’ll be competitive tomorrow and can be in the mix at the end of the race.”
Aprilia's Eugene Laverty was...
Aprilia's Eugene Laverty was determined to be on the front row, achieving his final qualifying time with a race tire.
Laverty was frustrated after sitting in fourth spot with his final soft qualifier, so the Northern Irishman put his head down for one final assault with a race tire. “After using my last qualifier in Superpole 3 I was on the second row, but I really wanted to be in the top three like I was in the last races last year. I threw myself into a fast lap using a race tire and I must say that everything went perfectly. It was just a bit rocky in the turn that comes out onto the straight stretch, but second place is excellent, especially since we've worked well on our race pace. Starting from the front was important. It simplifies things and now I am looking forward to the races tomorrow with confidence”.
World Superbike Phillip Island Superpole qualifying results:
1. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati 1:30.234
2. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia 1:30.429
3. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Aprilia 1:30.581
4. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1:30.615
5. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1:30.615
6. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia 1:30.683
7. Leon Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1:30.991
8. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda 1:30.998
9. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda 1:31.742
10. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Aprilia 1:31.283
11. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki 1:31.576
12. Chaz Daview (GBR) BMW 1:31.870
13. Max Neukirchner (GER) Ducati 1:32.010
14. Jamie Stauffer (AUS) Honda 1:32.353
15. Ivan Clementi (ITA) BMW 1:32.773
16. Glen Allerton (AUS) BMW 1:32.352
17. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Suzuki 1:32.402
18. Alexander Lundh (SWE) Kawasaki 1:32.487
19. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Ducati 1:32.540
20. Federico Sandi (ITA) Kawasaki 1:32.898
21. Vittorio Iannuzzo (ITA) BMW 1:33.082