After 19 years of competing at world level in 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, MotoGP and World Superbike, Spaniard Carlos Checa finally secured his first-ever world title at Magny-Cours in France. The Althea Ducati rider has been the benchmark of WSB all season and cemented his championship success with two more race wins, taking his tally of victories for the 2011 season to 14.
As one of the most respected riders in the paddock, his championship win was well-received by the 86,000 fans that flooded into an uncharacteristically hot and sunny Magny-Cours.
“I was able to keep my emotion of winning the championship separate from when I was racing on track,” said Checa. “I wanted to be on the podium but I didn’t want to take big risks. In the past some riders have been able to fight for the championship and still win races – like Valentino. When you are getting close to winning the title it becomes very easy to make a mistake and not race at 100%. But this year I have been able to handle this and this gives me great satisfaction because in the past I could not do this.
Carlos Checa: “When I crossed the line it was a great feeling, an explosion of emotion because I knew what it meant. This is the best moment of my career and the best moment of my life.”
“For the last five laps it was hard to keep my concentration because I had many emotions. When I crossed the line it was a great feeling, an explosion of emotion because I knew what it meant. This is the best moment of my career and the best moment of my life.
“After many years of racing and competing in the world championship this is a fantastic situation. The team has been very professional and I really appreciate the fact that they have given me the opportunity to achieve this. Everyone is enjoying the moment but at the same time they have remained completely professional and I appreciate that.”
Checa will now head to Portimao in Portugal in two weeks with a clear head and no doubt aiming for two more wins. And while he is yet to pen a new contract, the 38-year-old is set to stay with his proven Althea Ducati team in 2012, but this time with a teammate – newly crowned Superstock 1000 rider and current Althea rider Davide Giugliano.
Although unable to stop Checa from wrapping up the title, Italian Marco Melandri rode two highly impressive races to fight back from mid-pack obscurity to two second-place finishes onboard his factory Yamaha R1. In both races his charge to the front came with only a few laps to go, but his moves were both hard and in some cases aggressive. In addition to his two second places, Melandri also celebrated a new two-year deal with the factory BMW Motorrad team. Following the collapse of his current factory Yamaha squad, Melandri will ride alongside Brit Leon Haslam for a reported $1 million a year.
Newly crowned Superstock 1000 rider Davide Giugliano is expected to join Carlos Checa at Althea Racing in 2012.
“My starts were not good today and at the beginning of the race I did not feel comfortable,” Melandri said. “But by mid-race my confidence came back and the bike was working well. I was able to catch the guys in front but didn’t have much time to pass. In Race 2 I caught my teammate Eugene (Laverty) on the last lap. I only had one opportunity to make the pass and I hit him, which I am so sorry about.”
Although Melandri has been impressive in his rookie WSB season he’s set to face some stiff competition from his new teammate, Haslam. At Magny Cours Haslam secured his best weekend for BMW with a third- and fourth-place onboard the S1000RR. Haslam recently re-signed for the German team, but not before negotiating wholesale changes to the set-up including staff changes and a test with a new electronics system.
It was a good day for Laverty, who secured his first podium since Silverstone in August in Race 2, but it could have been even better. In Race 1 Laverty led convincingly before running into unexpected front tire problems which forced him to slow dramatically and eventually finish down in fifth place.
Marco Melandri had two come from behind performances in France and will join Leon Haslam at BMW Motorrad in 2012.
In Race 2 he led again and looked set to at least hold onto second place before being overhauled by Melandri on the final lap.
“The first race was really frustrating, but I’m happy enough with the second race, especially as I was only two seconds behind Carlos at the finish,” said Laverty. “The pass by Marco was a bit much and part of it was down to our different set-ups. For me the bike works better with a full fuel load which was why I was able to be fast at the start, but for Marco it’s the opposite.”
It was a bitterly disappointing day for pole man Jonathan Rea. Having won at Imola last time out, Rea looked set to be a serious player in the two races. In the first race a near jump start saw him swallowed up by the pack and in his haste to get back on terms with the leaders he crashed out on Lap 4. In Race 2 the 24-year-old initially led the race and was holding third place when he suffered an ignition sensor failure which resulted in the ECU of his Castrol Honda shutting down and the bike grinding to a halt.
In World Supersport it was a great day for former AMA Supersport contender, Chaz Davies, who won the world title. Having been denied the chance to wrap up the championship one week earlier in Imola when his engine failed, Davies
Jonathan Rea suffered an ignition sensor failure in the second race which resulted in his second DNF of the day.
made no mistake in France and is now the 2011 WSS champion. By finishing sixth place and beating closest rival, Fabien Foret, Davies now has an unassailable 37-point lead with just one round to go.
“It wasn’t my greatest race and all I was worried about was where Foret was all race long,” said Davies. “During my career I have had more bad times than good so to achieve this today is proof that hard work pays off. I’ve never given up, but it’s not been easy.”
Davies also paid tribute to his ParkinGO Yamaha team owner, Giuliano Rovelli, for his support.
“At the end of 2009 I didn’t have a ride and nobody wanted me, but after meeting his team at Miller earlier that year, Giuliano offered me a go on his bike for the last few rounds of the season. I clicked with the team and the rest is history. It just goes to show that with the belief of someone like Giuliano everything can turn around.”