Monday, May 31

CHECA PUTS ALTHEA DUCATI ON POLE

ARE WE set for a repeat of 2008 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, host of round seven of the 2010 HANNspree Superbike World Championship?

Two years ago Spaniard Carlos Checa put the Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR on pole, then took off to win both races next day.

This year Checa has put the privately entered Althea Team Ducati 1198R on pole, recording the fastest ever Superbike lap at the Utah circuit, outside Salt Lake City. Checa scorched off a best of 1m 47.081s - more than a second faster than his 2008 pole (1m 48.193s) and also under the class lap record 1m 48.768s set by Ben Spies on his way to winning the second race last year.

It is perhaps worth noting that last year Spies qualified on pole and won both races. Will Checa be able to repeat that perfomance?

If so, it will be yet another round of the 2010 HANNspree Superbike World Championship that Yamaha will have gone winless - a far cry from last year when Ben Spies was a serious force from the outset.

"In the regular qualifying session we did a good job", stated Checa, "and then Superpole went extremely well: I was braking as late as possible, exiting corners at top speed and I finished with a time that I didn't expect, so I'm extremely satisfied. I'm just as happy with the work that I've carried out with my team in preparation for the races."

Checa's blistering lap edged out Alitalia Aprilia rider Max Biaggi (1m 47.414s) with Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow next (1m 47.648s) and Czech privateer Jakub Smrz (1m 47.662s) rounding out the front row.


RED FLAG IN SUPERPOLE

The third Superpole session was red-flagged at one point after Assen double winner Jonathan Rea high-sided the HANNspree Ten Kate Honda mid-session and Smrz also crashed. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland highsided off the Honda, sustaining tyre burns to his neck and chest. However, he expects to be fit enough to compete in tomorrow’s two 21-lap races at the 4.907 km circuit.

World Championship points leader since round one, Alstare Suzuki rider Leon Haslam, was fifth fastest on the GSX-R1000, heading the second row of the grid.

Although Superpole 3 started again, Haslam had already used up his Pirelli qualifiers and was unable to go any faster. His team mate, Sylvain Guintoli, improved from Saturday and would probably have finished on the second row of the grid, but for the smallest of mistakes in one of the timed splits. The Frenchman will now start from row three.

"In final Superpole, I was on a flyer," Hasalam reported, "and, according to my first two splits, on course for the second or third quickest time. Then the red flag came out and that was the end of that. Although the session started again, I did not have any qualifiers left to use and there really wasn’t enough time to make an improvement, so row two it is for me. It’s not so bad, because turn one is a long way off, but it could be bad if Max (Biaggi) makes a good start because the Aprilia is so fast and he could easily exit the first corner with a good advantage.

"I’m pretty happy with my bike set-up, though of course I always think that we can improve it further. We will all sit down and look at the telemetry this evening and decide if we want to make some small changes in tomorrow morning’s warm-up. One thing is sure - tomorrow’s races are going to be long and hard and there are going to be some really good battles. The nature of this track suits the Ducatis and Aprilias and I think all of us four cylinder boys are going to have work our socks off to stay with them, but we will see what happens as the races play out. I am leading the championship now and I want to be still leading it when we leave Monday evening."