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An unlucky first day for Team SBK Ducati Alstare at Phillip Island

Phillip Island (Australia), Friday 22 February 2013: Team SBK Ducati Alstare faced various challenges in today’s opening sessions of the 2013 World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island. Although conditions at the Australian track were almost perfect during today’s free practice and first qualifying sessions, with sunshine and very little wind, both Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini suffered crashes during the practice which made afternoon qualifying all the more difficult for the pair.

In the first free practice session of the 2013 season, Checa made a solid start on board his 1199 Panigale but a highside fifteen minutes from the end of the session, in which he took a blow to the head and the foot, meant he lost valuable track time. His best lap, a 1’32.1 recorded early on in the session, put him in final ninth position.

On the other side of the garage Badovini, still suffering some pain after last week’s crash, was able to complete eight laps before he too was the victim of a small crash just minutes before Carlos. Coming just a few days after his previous crash, the incident definitely didn’t facilitate matters; Ayrton closed the practice with a best time of 1’33.0, registered earlier on.

Qualifying was therefore not an easy business for either rider. The session started well for Carlos who, ten minutes in, scored a 1’32.0 which positioned him temporarily third. Unfortunately he then started to feel dizzy and so took the decision,together with the team, to sit out the second half of the session, meaning that he closed twelfth thanks to the time set in the early stages. Ayrton too was forced to take things easy and save energy for tomorrow and Sunday; he recorded a best of 1’32.5 this afternoon which put him in final sixteenth position.

Carlos Checa: ‘I was looking forward to today and improving the bike after the official tests, but things didn’t turn out how I wanted. This morning, after only seven laps, I crashed exiting Siberia. It was one of the biggest highsides of my career and I think I went up a long way before hitting the track. I was lucky not to break anything but I hurt my left shoulder and my right foot, which is a bit of a problem because I use the rear brake quite a bit. The crash ended the session for me, but fortunately I was able to get out in the afternoon, put in some laps and get a time. Once again, I completed seven laps and ended 12th fastest overall.

It was a shame because, up until the crash, we had been heading in the right direction with the bike once more. We’d changed the set-up just before the crash, but we’ll have to look at the telemetry before we draw any conclusions. In the afternoon we went back to the original set-up – the one we’d used in testing – to make sure of a decent lap time. I’m sorry for all the work I’ve caused the mechanics, but hopefully I will feel better tomorrow morning and we can get back to improving the bike.’

Ayrton Badovini: ‘The last thing I wanted today was another crash, but that’s what happened! I banged my right foot and later, when I took my leathers off, the ankle was pretty swollen. Before the crash, which happened at the last corner (so it was pretty fast!), I could manage the left turns OK, but the right-handers were causing me some problems. I was finding it difficult to push hard in the right turns. So, if we can improve the set-up of the bike for right-handers, it will make my job a bit easier. At the moment I feel a bit destroyed, but I’m sure I will feel better after a good night’s sleep and some massages.’

Francis Batta, Team SBK Ducati Alstare’s owner: ‘I feel sorry for the mechanics, who have had to work hard to repair the damage. After his performance in the unofficial tests, we were looking forward to seeing what Carlos could do with the bike today. Unfortunately, he crashed after seven laps and that meant he couldn’t push hard in the afternoon session. We knew that Ayrton’s condition would prevent him from riding as hard as he would normally. His condition really needs at least ten days to heal properly. At the moment he is struggling after about six laps, but he is determined to do the best he can. Not a great day, but we have to be thankful that no bones have been broken and hope for better luck on Saturday and Sunday.’

TIMES (Qualifying): 1. Fabrizio (Aprilia) 1’31.3; 2. Laverty (Aprilia) 1’31.3 ; 3. Melandri (BMW) 1’31.5; 4. Camier (Suzuki) 1’31.6; 5. Davies (Aprilia) 1’31.6; 6. Haslam (Honda) 1’31.6; 7. Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’31.7; 8. Giugliano (Aprilia) 1’31.7; 9. Guintoli (Aprilia) 1’31.8; 10. Rea (Honda) 1’31.8…. 12. Checa (Ducati Alstare) 1’32.0…. 16. Badovini (Ducati Alstare) 1’32.5