Althea Racing's Carlos Checa kicked off the new World Superbike Championship season with a convincing win in the opening race at Australia's Phillip Island.

The Spaniard was forced to work hard in the opening laps but once at head of the field, he never looked back. Checa was largely untroubled for the majority of the race and cruised his way to the chequered flag.

Saturday's Qualifying session proved to be a closely fought shoot out for pole position, won by Checa, who edged out reigning world champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia) by 0.013 seconds. The front row was completed by Brit Leon Haslam in third and Ireland's Eugene Laverty in fourth. Noriyuki Haga, James Toseland and the glandular fever stricken Leon Camier started on the fourth row.

Yamaha's Laverty made a bright start and stormed into the lead on the opening lap, chased by Biaggi, Haslam and Checa. The combination of Ducati, Checa and the Phillip Island circuit soon clicked and the Spaniard surged into the lead, after executing smart moves to pass Biaggi and Laverty on lap three.

Once in the lead, Checa set about building a lead and it wasn't long before he established a three second advantage over the reigning world champion Biaggi.

With Checa looking comfortable at the head of the field, the attention switched to the battle for the final podium spot. Haslam passed Laverty for the position on lap six but Marco Melandri, Jonathan Rea and Michel Fabrizio soon joined the squabble for the remainder of the race.

While the battle for third intensified, Checa raced into the distance and sealed the win from Biaggi. Haslam managed to hold on to third at the chequered flag ahead of Laverty, who passed Melandri for fourth on the finish line.

A delighted race winner, Checa said: “The bike was working well at this track but you never know what will happen with the conditions. I started quite well and was able to make a gap and then it was about controlling the race. I relaxed a little on the last lap but it is a fantastic win and a great start.”

Although disappointed not to be standing on the top step of the podium, 2010 world champion Biaggi was pleased with second spot.

He said: “It's a great result because for the last two years at Phillip Island we were unable to fight a for a podium finish. We have proved quite a lot but Checa rode a fantastic race. We did our best but I'm happy with the result.”

After a tough battle for third, last year's championship runner-up Haslam was content with a podium finish.

He said: “For me that was like a win at this stage of the season. We've come on a lot from last week to this so thanks to all the team at BMW. I'm looking froward to looking at the data and hopefully we can work on a few things to get closer to Max Biaggi.”

World Superbike Round 1 Race 1 Results:

1. Carlos Checa ESP Althea Ducati 1098R 34mins 16.503s
2. Max Biaggi ITA Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 +4.365s
3. Leon Haslam GBR BMW Motorrad S1000RR +10.719s
4. Eugene Laverty IRL Yamaha WSBK YZF R1 +11.266s
5. Marco Melandri ITA Yamaha WSBK YZF R1 +11.293s
6. Michel Fabrizio ITA Suzuki Alstare GSX-R1000 +12.039s
7. Jakub Smrz CZE Effenbert Liberty Ducati 1098R +20.294s
8. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki RTS ZX-10R +20.742s
9. Noriyuki Haga JPN PATA Aprilia RSV-4 +22.421s
10. Troy Corser AUS BMW Motorrad S1000RR +25.822s
11. Roberto Rolfo ITA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +29.270s
12. Jonathan Rea GBR Castrol Honda CBR1000RR +31.059s
13. Leon Camier GBR Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 +31.721s
14. Ayrton Badovini ITA BMW Italia S1000RR +36.389s
15. Bryan Staring AUS Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +36.470s
16. Ruben Xaus ESP Castrol Honda CBR1000RR +41.928s
17. James Toseland GBR BMW Italia S1000RR +55.239s
18. Josh Waters AUS Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 +1min 00.312s
19. Mark Aitchison AUS Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1min 00.316s
20. Maxime Berger FRA Supersonic Ducati 1098R +1min 30.125s
Not Classified
21. Joan Lascorz ESP Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 13 laps completed
22. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Effenbert Liberty Ducati 1098R 6 laps completed