Carlos Checa is to retire from racing. The 41-year-old Spaniard had been forced to skip the last four rounds of the 2013 World Superbike season after crashing heavily during practice at the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey, fracturing his pelvis. That injury, and the lack of a strong offer for the 2014 season, caused Checa to decide to retire.
The second day of the private test for the World Superbike teams at Phillip Island went very much as the first day did: with fast times, and a lot of crashes. The new surface was to blame for both: Leon Camier got half a second under the race lap record, but the on/off grip levels of the track saw him, and almost every one else, flung off their bikes at one point or another.
Camier ended the day fastest, the engine updates on his FIXI Crescent Suzuki improving the machine considerably, along with electronic updates for the bike. Sylvain Guintoli – the man Suzuki originally signed alongside Camier, but who jumped ship for the factory Aprilia ride – was 2nd, a tenth off the pace of Camier, proving that the Aprilia RSV4 still a potent weapon.
Johnny Rea put the Pata Honda into 3rd, with work continuing on ironing out the wrinkles with the HRC electronics, with both Rea and Haslam pleased with the progress made, though still aware of the task ahead. Marco Melandri was the fastest BMW man, though the Italian was wary of pushing too hard for fear of crashing, and adding further damage to his painful shoulder. Melandri did put in a long run on used tires, running a consistent string of laps around the 1’32 mark, a solid race pace.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up their test at Valencia, on the other side of the world, the World Superbike and World Supersport riders are beginning the final run in to the season opener in 10 days’ time.
They started today with the first of two days of private testing, the first chance the riders get to see the resurfaced Phillip Island track. The overall reaction to the new surface was very positive, though the lack of rubber on the track caused a spot of mayhem in the morning, with several riders crashing out.
Fastest man of the day was Eugene Laverty on the factory Aprilia, the Irishman circulating at lap record pace, but still a second off the pole record. Leon Camier put the Fixi Suzuki into 2nd spot, ahead of the Pata Hondas of Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam, while Marco Melandri ended the day in 5th. Carlos Checa did not ride, as the 2011 World Champion was suffering with a stomach bug.
Ending a 14 year relationship, the 2013 World Superbike Championship season sees Team Alstare under the flag of a new manufacturer, as the Belgian squad closes its story with Suzuki Racing, and begin a new one with Ducati Corse. An adjustment for many in the paddock, the name Alstare has always been synonymous with Suzuki, though the team’s absence this last season was a noticeable one, as Team Alstare has always been one of the top crews in WSBK.
In that regard, it seems fitting then that Alstare should find a partnership with another great name in World Superbike racing, and so while the name Team Ducati Alstare sounds a bit strange to the ear, it makes sense in the head. Bidding goodbye to Suzuki, and hello to Ducati, Team Alstare has put together two videos, which have more than a touch of bittersweet to them. Clearly, this is a wound that will still require some time to heal.
Ducati is back in the World Superbike Championship, and today the Ducati Alstare team debuted its Ducati 1199 Panigale R race bike that Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini will campaign with this season. Heavily supported by Ducati Corse, it comes as no surprise then that the team’s livery is in the customary Rosso Corsa, and comes with some very familiar names on its side.
Energy Trading International (ENERGY T.I.) is a name you will see on Andrea Iannone’s Pramac Ducati, while communications company TIM has been a feature on the factory MotoGP bike for a number of seasons. Battery maker FIAMM has also been in the MotoGP paddock with Ducati, while energy drink FICC is the only new-comer to the world of two-wheeled motorsport on the team.
Despite all the cross-pollination, Ducati Alstare is true to form with a stunning machine for 2013. Enjoy some hi-res photos after the jump.