Portimao (Portugal), Sunday 23rd September 2012: another complicated race day for the Althea Racing team today at the ‘Autodromo Internacional do Algarve’. In race 1 Carlos Checa rode a great race to take his first podium since Brno while Davide Giugliano was robbed of his chance to do well after a collision early on in the race forced him to retire. In the second of the day’s races Giugliano was once again unlucky, suffering from presumed tyre problems while Checa was able to bounce back after a technical issue in the early stages to cross the line fifth.
After two hot and sunny days the Superbike paddock awoke to heavy rain and poor visibility on the Portimao track. After only a fifteen minute warm-up, the riders had little time to prepare for racing in these conditions.
Race 1 – the first race became a game of two halves. In the first ‘heat’ Davide was caught up in an crash when Melandri collided with him during the very first lap. He sustained an ankle injury but unfortunately the damage is not serious. Just a few laps later, as Carlos lay in fourth position, the red flag came out due to oil left on the track after a crash for Brignola. After a half-hour break the race (shortened to sixteen laps) was restarted, but without the participation of Giugliano. Checa immediately made up a couple of positions and then started his fight, first against McCormick and then Biaggi. On lap seven he got past the Italian and from that point the Althea rider put in a series of fastest laps, each quicker than the last, to close the gap between himself and leaders Guintoli and Sykes. Once past Guintoli, Checa continued to lap half a second quicker than Sykes and was up with him by the final stages. Despite his best efforts, and the fact he made the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap (1m56.4), he was unable to pass Tom, crossing the line in second place, 0.3 of a second after the Kawasaki rider.
Race 2 – at the end of the first lap the two Althea riders were eighth (Giugliano) and ninth (Checa). Due to the presumed traction control issue, Checa quickly lost a lot of ground in the early stages, finding himself fourteenth. Carlos deactivated and then reactivated the system and this seemed to solve the problem, allowing him to make up a lot of positions in what remained of the race. After a few laps Giugliano also slowed dramatically, due to what appeared to be a problem with the front of his bike; this meant that he returned to the garage, putting a premature end to his race. Carlos continued to gain ground throughout the rest of the race (he was tenth by lap five and seventh by lap ten). Thanks to a consistently fast pace that he was able to maintain to the line, the Spaniard closed race two in final fifth position.
At the end of this penultimate round, Checa is fourth in the standings with 278.5 points while Giugliano is eleventh with 125 points. Thanks to the results of race 1, Ducati now has 375 points and lies third in the manufacturer’s standings, with respect to the 394 held by BMW and the 422.5 held by Aprilia.
“Second position is very positive, considering the rain, and the fact that the race was stopped. It was difficult because Tom defended himself well and it was very risky to overtake. I had to be careful to control tyre wear as it was drying out later in the race of course. At the end I tried to improve my pace, and maybe I had better pace than Tom in the final stages but I could see no clear place to overtake. Anyway we are very happy, I thank my team that has done a great job all weekend; this is a great result. In the second race I was there with the leading group but then I had a problem and I couldn’t push, I didn’t know what it was but I deactivated and then reactivated the traction control and this seemed to solve it. I was able to catch up a lot of positions but it wasn’t easy, the bike wasn’t as easy to ride as it had been in the practice sessions. Considering all that happened I think fifth is a good result. Now we will concentrate on finishing the season in the best possible way at Magny-Cours.”
“We didn’t need that today. In the first race contact between Melandri and I left me on the ground. I have hurt my left ankle but luckily I was able to take part in the second race. Then in that race I could feel that there was a problem almost as soon as we began, the front of the bike was not right. After I lost a lot of ground over a couple of laps I came back to the garage. We changed the tyre and I went back out to test it and it was fine, so it looks like it was an issue with the front tyre. That was a pity because I really felt that I was capable of two strong results today – next time hopefully.”
RESULTS: Race 1 - 1. Sykes (Kawasaki); 2. Checa (Ducati); 3. Guintoli (Ducati). Race 2 – 1. Laverty (Aprilia); 2. Rea (Honda); 3. Biaggi (Aprilia)
CLASSIFICATION: Riders – 1. Biaggi (Aprilia) 347; 2. Sykes (Kawasaki) 316.5; 3. Melandri (BMW) 308.5; 4. Checa (Ducati) 278.5; 5. Rea (Honda) 255.5; 6. Laverty (Aprilia) 241.5; 7. Haslam (BMW) 189; 8. Guintoli (Ducati) 172.5; 9. Davies (Aprilia) 156.5; 10. Fabrizio (BMW) 133.5; 11. Giugliano (Ducati) 125... Manufacturers – Aprilia 422.5; BMW 394; Ducati 375; Kawasaki 356.5; Honda 270.5; Suzuki 130.5