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Old 07-17-2015, 07:40 PM   #1
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First Bayliss, then Carlos Checa?

First it was Troy Bayliss, then Max Biaggi, and now Carlos Checa. While Jonathan Rea keeps piling up victories in World Superbike, those three iconic riders have come back and made the big headlines in 2015. The Australian and the Italian actually challenged their self-proclaimed heirs, while the Spaniard has shaken off some rust with a three-day test in Mugello (Italy) on the factory Panigale left vacant by the official test rider Luca Scassa, who fractured his collarbone during the last race weekend in Misano.

“I went fast, but not too much, otherwise they'll ask me to race again,” laughed Checa, who reportedly lapped in 1:51 on used tires. “It was a very emotional experience. I was as excited as a couple of years ago, but also nostalgic and doubtful about my abilities. I like riding and I was satisfied with my work, but competing is a whole different thing. I don't feel any necessity to do that.”

For Checa, it was the first time on a superbike after injuring his hip during the second part of the 2013 season. The Spaniard, who has always shown a penchant for an active lifestyle, prepared for the occasion riding enduro in the Sardinia rally and serving as an instructor on sportbikes for Ducati's client program.

“The hip is basically OK, it just bothers me a bit at the maximum lean angle,” he said. “Taking a bike to its limit is difficult. The Panigale is still a peculiar bike, but it has improved a lot since the last time I rode it. The electronics are much more refined and intuitive. The engine's character is much better at lower revs, but it still lacks a bit of power at the top.”

You have to pass before your opponent enters the corner, and Valentino was already leaning in...he's pretty smart in those situations (laughs).The twin-cylinder from Borgo Panigale scored its first victory this year in Aragon (Spain) with Chaz Davies. Checa's main purpose is to help both factory riders to reach more success before the end of a season dominated so far by Kawasaki, which has recorded 14 wins in 16 races in between Rea and his teammate Tom Sykes.

“I was happy to see Chaz win in Spain, but also a bit disappointed I couldn't be the one giving the Panigale its first victory,” Checa observed. “But, it was impossible back then, we lacked some 20 horsepower. This year, Kawasaki is the manufacturer to beat, both in terms of the bike and the riders. Rea is stronger and hungrier than Sykes. They deserve the success anyhow, as they invested in this championship more than anyone else. I'm here to help Ducati's cause. It's been refreshing, mentally, so we may do more tests in the future.”

Conversely, Checa shut the door on the possibility of a comeback. “To me, that's a closed book,” he said. “I always wanted to do also other things in life, expand my perspective. But, I think Biaggi did very well. Maybe he wasn't too sure when he quit, but his return was positive for the whole championship and he seriously challenged the full-time riders. I think he clarified some doubts and took great satisfaction out of that.”

Speaking of Biaggi, he and Checa enjoyed a last-corner battle in Assen similarly to the one that recently unfolded between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez, which has become the hot topic in motorcycle racing. “I overtook Biaggi before the corner,” Checa recalled. “It was a clean move, that's my style. I think riders shouldn't cut chicanes, unless they're pushed out by a competitor. You have to pass before your opponent enters the corner, and Valentino was already leaning in. That said, I don't think it was a dirty move. Maybe Rossi braked deep as well, imagining what would have happened. He's pretty smart in those situations (laughs).”

Checa's composure and relaxed chatter hint a serene retirement. Unlike Bayliss and Biaggi, he does not want to be back in the limelight. Rather, the Spaniard enjoyed a private moment with a bike he has seen come into the world. Under his tutelage, the Panigale was still a child, now it grown into an adult. As an affectionate father, Checa is confident about leaving the bike in good hands.

“The most stressful thing about this test was to lose my luggage in the Florence airport,” he joked. “I think the retired-rider life is quite good, mine at least.”

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