The all-new Ducati 1199 Panigale may dominate the headlines in the motorcycle press of late (read our own 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale First Ride Review), but Carlos Checa and company won’t be benefiting the from the Italian firm’s latest ground-up Superbike redesign. The 1199 isn’t homologated for SBK this season, and will be campaigned instead in the FIM Superstock class for 2012. That leaves the seven-rider Ducati SBK contingent to campaign on the 1198 (1098R).
Beginning its fifth SBK campaign, the long-serving Ducati Twin gets hit with that 6 kilogram (13.2 pound) weight handicap. In preseason testing the top-running Althea squad has already noted the extra pounds contribute to increased tire wear. Even hampered by more lbs, the inherent power traits of the Ducati see it traditionally perform well at some venues (like Phillip Island and Miller) and struggle at others (like Monza). Part of Checa’s mastery in 2011 was collecting steady points at those odd rounds where the Ducati trailed. That and winning 15 races!
The big Ducati news in 2011 was it pulling out of SBK and going all in with MotoGP. The result? Carlos Checa completely dominated SBK on the single-rider “privateer” Althea, meanwhile the much-hyped marriage of Ducati with MotoGP god Valentino Rossi netted a disappointing, and winless, 2011 campaign. Go figure…
After his 19th campaign at the world level, the 39-year-old Checa claimed his first ever world title. And King Carlos figures to be the front-runner for title number two as the former MotoGP rider marks his fifth season in SBK and third consecutive with Althea Ducati. Checa’s 2011 title-winning run included 15 wins and 21 podiums, his 505
The Effenbert-Liberty team is one of the more potent satellite outfits operating in SBK. Riders Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz notably joined Checa on the Miller Race 1 steps.
championship points the highest tally since Colin Edwards’ 2002 title-winning campaign (552 points).
This season doesn’t figure to be quite as easy. Hindered by the aforementioned weight additions, Checa will have to coax even more performance out of the long-in-the-tooth 1198 – provided the competition steps up development. Interviewing Checa last year at Miller, the Spaniard was keen to note the Ducati engine in particular had reached the end of its performance development. Still, preseason testing shows the Duc is spry enough for a spirited title defense, and Checa well deserves favorite status for 2012. Having campaigned two seasons solo, Checa will be teamed this year with 2011 STK champ, Italian Davide Giugliano.
Aside from Althea, the sizable Ducati camp features five additional regulars on the grid. The three-rider Team Effenbert Liberty Racing squad features last year’s duo of Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli, joined by new rider Maxime Berger. Smrz has been the most productive true privateer in SBK in recent years. The Czech rider managed a trio of podiums in 2011. Last year the most memorable weekend for the Effenbert squad came at Miller Motorsports Park, when Smrz and Guintoli flanked Checa on the Race 1 podium. Both could prove to be a surprise this season, snagging the odd rostrum
appearance. As for Berger, the Italian is most renowned for his bizarre mechanical DNF at Donington last season. The then Supersonic Ducati rider lost his back wheel when it sheared off just above the hub (Supersonic later withdrawing from SBK, recently entering British Superbike in 2012). Berger’s fate could only improve…
Other Ducati riders include Italian Lorenzo Zanetti. Having placed third in last year’s STK series, Zanetti joins the Italian-based PATA racing, which moves from Aprilia to Ducati machinery in 2012. The final Duc pilot is Niccolo Canepa for the Italian-based Red Devils Roma team. Canepa is another STK promotion, the Italian having most notably campaigned the 2009 season in MotoGP for Pramac Racing.
- Top Rider – Carlos Checa (Duh!)
- Top Team – Althea Ducati
- Dark Horse – Jakub Smrz
2012 Ducati SBK Roster:
#7 Carlos Checa – Althea Racing
#34 Davide Giugliano – Althea Racing
#50 Sylvain Guintoli – Team Effenbert Liberty Racing
#59 Niccolo Canepa – Red Devils Roma
#87 Lorenzo Zanetti – PATA Racing Team
#96 Jakub Smrz – Team Effenbert Liberty Racing
#121 Maxime Berger – Team Effenbert Liberty Racing