Superbikes: King Carlos reigns but Laverty fights all way
Carlos Checa took Ducati's 300th World Superbike Championship race win and tightened his grip on the world title with a double win at Silverstone.
The Althea Ducati rider won both races at the Northamptonshire circuit to extend his lead over reigning champion Max Biaggi to 62 points but Ulsterman Eugene Laverty gave him plenty to think about.
The Toomebride rider had every reason to be happy with his day’s work as he collected two second places behind the majestic Spaniard.
Laverty said: “I've got to be happy. It was a better second race for me.”
Checa took two comfortable race wins — the first victory being Ducati's 300th in the series and the second on the occasion of his 100th race in the championship — as Biaggi struggled to 11th and fourth places on the Alitalia Aprilia.
Laverty took two second places on his factory Yamaha and team-mate Marco Melandri was third both times.
Checa said of his race one win: “It was 300 wins for Ducati. It was on my mind and on the minds of the team.”
He added after race two: “It was a fantastic weekend. I didn't know it was my 100th race but I will remember forever this weekend.”
With four rounds to go Checa looked ahead to the next round in Germany rather than at his title chances.
He said: “There are still many races to go but now we will arrive at the Nurburgring a little bit more comfortable.”
Checa won the opening race by three seconds after taking over control from Laverty.
The Ulsterman held out for second on the podium ahead of Melandri, who managed to keep BMW's Leon Haslam off the top positions.
Pole-sitter John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Suzuki) had been in contention for the win but eventually faded to fifth, with Leon Camier (Alitalia Aprilia) and Nori Haga (Pata Aprilia) both seeing their hopes of challenging for the win come to nothing.
Haga had challenged early on before crashing and Camier had to retire out of third place, on lap 15 of 18, with an electrical problem as he closed in on Laverty.
Checa's win was made better by the fact that title rival Biaggi could only finish 11th, losing 10th on the final lap to Ayrton Badovini (BMW).
Behind Hopkins in fifth was Sylvain Guintoli (Effenbert Ducati), with Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) in seventh ahead of Maxime Berger (Supersonic Ducati) and Troy Corser (BMW).
James Toseland (BMW) made his return from a serious wrist injury but was 20 seconds adrift of Biaggi in 12th.
Checa took another comfortable win in race two after passing early leader Laverty with his team-mate Melandri again in third.
Checa left it until one-third distance to depose Laverty but it was behind them that the real action took place.
Camier had looked set for the third but Melandri and then Biaggi both passed him late in the race.
Melandri held out to take third ahead of Biaggi who had worked his way up to fourth from seventh after putting in a succession of fastest laps.
Camier was forced to settle for fifth with Hopkins eventually fading from pole to seventh, just ahead of Haslam, with Michel Fabrizio (Alstare Suzuki) and Badovini rounding out the top 10.
Toseland finished 13th.