Carlos Checa (#7) put up a strong fight against Sylvain Guintoli (#50) in the final round to claim his 15th victory of 2011.
In many ways the stars of WSB saved their best until last to make the final round of the series at Portimao a highly entertaining race weekend. On track it was Carlos Checa again who overcame the adversity of looking like he was out of a ride next season to win Race 1 after a brilliant battle with fellow Ducati rider, Sylvan Guintoli.
Guintoli, riding the Effenbert Ducati, gambled on a soft rear Pirelli and boy did he make it work. Knowing he would have an advantage at the start of the race, he made a strong start before passing Yamaha’s Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri and Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea to lead and pull away. And if it hadn’t been for Checa, who opted for the hardest rear tire, Guintoli would have won his first-ever WSB race. But toward the end Checa’s superior race pace enabled him to fight his way to the front to secure his 15th race win of 2011. Rea secured third using a medium rear tire, meaning the three men on the podium were all using different spec tires.
“The start of the race was not very easy for me and it took me a long time to really understand the feeling I had with the bike and tires,” said Checa. “But after some laps I started to feel more confident and that meant I could push. I managed to get past Rea and Melandri and up to second but there was still a big gap to Guintoli. He was riding very well and I thought it was going to be impossible to catch him as I was on the limit. Then I could see that he lost some
Carlos Checa: “Before Race 1 it looked like there was no way that I could stay with Althea Racing in 2012 and I was very upset about this, but now it seems that Althea Racing and Ducati have come to an agreement and I am over the moon to hear that I can stay with my team and with my bike again next year.”
grip and I realized that if I just kept doing what I was doing it would be possible to catch him. It’s the first time I’ve raced at the front with another Ducati, normally it’s a four cylinder and this made things a bit different.”
In Race 2 Yamaha men Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty signed off their Yamaha careers in style. In Yamaha’s last official race in WSB Melandri and Laverty went head to head with the Italian ultimately winning out to secure his fourth win of the season. Laverty fought hard though, knowing that only a win would guarantee him third place in the overall championship standings ahead of a resurgent Max Biaggi. Rea secured his second podium of the day with Checa fourth and Guintoli fifth.
“It was a great race and a great way to end my year with Yamaha,” said Melandri. “I was desperate to win the race after the problem I had in the first race with the tire. Something happened to it with five laps to go, it felt like it was flat and every time I leaned over the bike wanted to run wide.”
The on track action was entertaining, but it was nothing compared to paddock activity. After weeks of waiting, the 2012 silly season kicked off in style. Carlos Checa was the main topic of conversation due to his rumored deal to stay with Ducati. After looking like it wouldn’t be possible to stay with Althea due to a lack of budget and Ducati support for the championship winning team, Checa came close to signing with the BMW Motorrad Italia team alongside Ayrton
WSB rookie Eugene Laverty has landed a ride in 2012 with Pata Aprilia onboard a factory RSV4 machine.
Badovini. But in a last minute turnaround, Ducati pledged their support to the Althea project, and Checa re-signed to defend his title with the same crew in 2012.
Other significant signings were newly crowned World Supersport champion Chaz Davies securing a deal with his current ParkinGO team to take on WSB next season. Davies will ride a Ducati 1198 complete with factory engineers in his rookie WSB season.
This year’s WSB sensation Eugene Laverty also got his future confirmed on Sunday. The Irishman looked set to join BMW Italia last week until being swayed by Aprilia to join the PATA team onboard a full factory RSV4.
Italian Michel Fabrizio had to sit and watch Laverty and Checa turn down the BMW Italia ride before he secured his future with the experienced and ever improving team. By signing for the team he will be reacquainted to a number of mechanics and technicians he worked with at Xerox Ducati up until last season.
Chaz Davies will move up to WSB next year after inking a deal with ParkinGO to ride a factory sponsored Ducati 1198.
The WSB paddock will also get another MotoGP rider in its ranks next season after the Dutch Castrol Honda squad secured the signature of current Gresini Honda man Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama is a former 250GP world champion and is highly rated by Honda management, and the signing is even more significant given Honda’s launch of its new Fireblade in 2012.
Although the 2011 WSB season is over the 2012 season begins on Tuesday when a number of riders will begin testing. Marco Melandri will ride the factory BMW for the first time while Eugene Laverty will get a day onboard the Aprilia RSV4. Although not confirmed, Davies is also hoping to get his hands on a Ducati for at least a few laps to get a taste of what he’ll be experiencing full time in 2012.