Althea Racing and their golden boy Carlos Checa
Fourth in the 2008 World Championship for Hannspree Ten Kate Honda and seventh in the 2009 World Championship, this has been the likeable Spaniard’s record since he switched from MotoGP to Althea Racing. Last year, US boy Ben Spies on his Yamaha R1 was surprisingly a man from overseas who left his mark on the Superbike World Championship. After being allowed to move from his factory to MotoGP as a reward, it was at least clear that there would be a new world champion. The list of contenders was very long, beginning with Checa and Aprila Racing and its two factory drivers Max Biaggi and Leon Camier. Kawasaki bet on young blood with young Tom Sykes and Ten Kate Honda followed suit with Jonathan Rea. The Ducati factory team competed with crowd favorite “Nitro Nori” Haga and the Italian Michel Fabrizio. BMW relied on veterans Troy Corser and Rubén Xaus, while Yamaha tried Cal Crutchlow and his English compatriot James Toseland. Suzuki Alstare also had two hot irons in the fire in Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli, just to name a few of the most important.
How it all began for Althea Racing
Althea Racing’s activity in the motorcycling world began in 2007 with its entry into the Supersport 600 World Championship with Honda CBR 600RR bikes and a technical structure in Colleferro. The bikes were driven by Japanese Katsuaki Fujiwara and Italian Lorenzo Alfonsi. The Japanese finished fourth in the drivers’ standings at the end of the season. In the following two years, without changing the motorcycle brand, the team also expanded its participation in the Superbike World Championship and the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup, becoming the Hannspree Honda Althea. The Italians started the 2008 Superbike World Championship with Roberto Rolfo, with the best result being 8th place in their home race in Vallelunga (near Rome) and 17th place in the World Championship at the end of the season.
A difficult following 2009 for Althea
The Hannspree Honda Althea Racing Team continued with the Englishman Tommy Hill the following year, although the former only completed the first 7 races. After that, he was replaced by Frenchman Matthieu Lagrive, who finished nineteenth at the World Championships. Only after switching to Ducati on the powerful 1098R should things improve afterwards. For the time being, this should remain the last season in which Ducati competed with the Xerox factory team in the Superbike World Championship. With the signing of Carlos Checa, coming from Ten Kate Honda, the prospects for top positions were excellent. And it was to get even better later.
The 2010 season – the breakthrough year for Althea Racing
The course for a successful future was set with Carlos Checa. The year before, the Spaniard had a gruelingly strong team-mate at his side in Jonathan Rea in the Honda works team and was rightly hoping for an improvement on the much more powerful Ducati 1098R. After two victories each in MotoGP (1996 and 1998) and in WorldSBK (all on Honda), the fast man from the Catalan metropolis Barcelona had already proven his qualities several times. The only question was whether it would be easy for him to switch to the high-torque Ducati or whether he would first need to get used to it.
The first victory – already in the second race of the season
After 7th place in the first race, the Spaniard naturally hoped for an improvement down under. The veteran managed this very impressively when he was able to put Suzuki ace Haslam and Michel Fabrizio in second place. In round 2 at the Autodromo do Algarve near the coastal town of Portimão in Portugal it wasn’t enough for a podium, but two fourth places were more than impressive for Checa on the customer Ducati. On the next lap in Valencia, a failure in race one was followed by a second place behind old champion and Ducati brand colleague Noriyuki Haga. In the “Cathedral of Speed” at Assen, the Catalan clinched P4 in the first race and sixth in the second, before a setback followed in Monza with just 7 points in the two races. Incidentally, his former teammate Jonathan Rea on a Hannspree Ten Kate Honda was celebrated as the double winner in the Netherlands.
The ups and downs of mid-season
After the misery in Monza, another very successful weekend followed in Kyalami (South Africa) with second place and a fifth place in the second race of the day. Since the premiere of WorldSBK from 1988 to 2015, both races have always taken place on Sundays. Despite setting the fastest lap in both races, the lap in the USA at Miller Motorsports Park was a disaster for Carlos when he failed to see the checkered flag in both races. At his team’s home race in Misano, on the other hand, he again achieved a top result with P2 and fifth place. This was followed by Brno with 9th and 6th place, and Silverstone with 7th and 10th place. With a total of 9 victories up to the round in the Czech Republic, Aprilia star Max Biaggi was almost uncatchable at the top of the table at this point. While Jonathan Rea with 130 points behind (150 were still up for grabs in the last 3 rounds) only had a theoretical chance of his first title, only Leon Haslam was still considered a serious challenger to the Roman. But the Englishman was already 60 points behind the leader.
The last 3 laps with the highlight for Althea Racing and Checa at Imola
While his former team-mate Jonathan Rea clinched overall victory on lap ten at the Nürburgring, Carlos Checa was still able to secure second place in the first race. In the second race, after three laps in the lead, the Spaniard crashed while lying on P2 and fortunately remained uninjured. The second home race of the season and the penultimate lap was the most successful weekend for him and his team. Not far from the Ducati factory at the Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari in Imola, Carlos delighted the numerous fans of the brand who had traveled to the event with a flawless double victory. At the season finale in Magny-Cours, the eighth podium in the first race followed a successful debut for the Althea team. With 9th place, the Catalan finally secured 3rd place in the World Championship, just ahead of Johnny Rea, who only had 4 points in the last two laps after not even being on the starting grid three times.
The absolute highlight for Checa and Althea Racing with the 2011 season
With 13 world titles to date, Ducati has been by far the most successful work in WorldSBK. Although the brand tries to cheat officially in the statistics, the official statistics can always be used to prove that only 12 of them were ridden by a factory team. The second world championship title of the Italian manufacturer in 1991 by Sonnyboy Doug Poland was brought in by a flawless private driver, in contrast to their subsequent attempt at falsification. The factory team of the reds with Raymond Roche was formally demoted to extras. See also our detailed reports in the history of the 1991 Superbike World Championship on this page. After Ducati’s embarrassment of being beaten against the home country’s Aprilia team again in the title fight, those responsible from Borgo Panigale (a suburb of Bologna) had had enough. It was decided to exit the World Cup as a factory, but gave increased support to the brand’s best team.
Start of the 2011 season with a tailor-made start
There is no better way to start a new year than with a one-two. After Checa’s double triumph at Phillip Island, two third places and race wins each followed in Donington and Assen. After three laps, defending champion Max Biaggi on the Aprilia was already 43 points behind the Spaniard. Just behind him Marco Melandri, who switched from MotoGP to the Yamaha factory team, is 47 points behind Checa after two race wins. As in the previous year, the following lap in the Royal Park of Monza did not become the Barcelona man’s favorite weekend. While 9th and 10th was a setback for the Althea Racing team and their riders, Melandri’s Yamaha teammate Eugene Laverty was not one of the Catalan’s closest rivals to win in the World Championship.
Confirmation in the US and Misano
The defeat at Monza was followed by two flawless double victories at Miller Motorsports Park (USA) and at Checa’s team’s home race in Misano (Italy). With a 72-point lead over Max Biaggi and their 95 over Marco Melandri, the Spaniard went to Motorland Aragon in his home country. After nine laps, the local hero was eliminated in the first race in turn 10 due to a fall. His team was able to claim 3rd place in the second race as damage limitation. While in Brno (Czech Republic) Melandri and Biaggi shared the first two places as brothers, Checa made it onto the podium twice in a row with two third places. In the meantime, however, his lead had shrunk to 30 (to Biaggi) and 53 points (to Melandri). After that, it was a one-two for the Catalan at Silverstone.
The last 4 rounds with the superior securing of the title
The world championship leader also won the first race afterwards at the Nürburgring in Germany. In the wet race that followed, Kawasaki hope Tom Sykes prevailed for the first time in his young career, while Carlos Checa finished 8th. This was followed by his team’s home race in Imola, where the Althea Racing pilot took third place and a win in race 2 to take overall victory just ahead of Nori Haga (Aprilia), who finished second twice. Melandri, second in the World Championship since the Nürburgring, was already 97 points behind the Spaniard with two laps to go and only 100 were still up for grabs. After the first of two wins in the penultimate round in Magny-Cours (France), Checa finally closed the bag and finally secured the most valuable title of his career in the late autumn of his career. A 15th win of the season and a fourth place followed at the Autodromo do Algarve near Portimão.
The second world title for a Ducati private team
Exactly 20 years later, after the US sensation Doug Polen in 1991, David Checa secured the second WorldSBK title for a private Ducati team. A dry spell lasting more than 10 years was to follow for the reds, until in 2022 Alvaro Bautista was finally able to win the world championship title in the near-series championship again. However, the Swabian would maintain that his championship had a “Gschmäckle” (an aftertaste). At least it has to be said that his compatriot Checa became champion with purely driving means and without a technical preference from the point of view of many fans and experts. In the case of its successor for the reds, the FIM, as the highest motorsport authority, provided tremendous support with an extremely much higher maximum speed compared to the rest of the competition. One can discuss whether this can be classified as really valuable from a sporting point of view. Althea Ducati and Carlos Checa, on the other hand, have a flawless conscience when it comes to their success in 2011.
Althea Racing’s successes in the WSBK
Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).
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