SBK Miller Race One: Classy Checa Back On Track

Carlos Checa - Photo Credit: Althea Racing
Carlos Checa - Photo Credit: Althea Racing


Carlos Checa took his first victory in six races after a commanding performance in the opening World Superbike race of Memorial Day at Miller Motorsport Park. The defending champion has a superb record at the Utah circuit and looked a class apart once he'd overhauled early leader Marco Melandri.

Polesitter Jakub Smrz was engulfed at the start as Tom Sykes got into the first corner ahead of Checa, Melandri and Jonathan Rea. The Kawasaki didn't seem to be as competitive as in previous weekends and Melandri outdragged him on the run towards Sunset bend on lap five. Sykes was pushed back to third by Checa at the Black Rock hairpin further around the lap but the pain wouldn't stop there for the Yorkshireman as Rea and championship rival Max Biaggi forced their way through as well.

Sykes' plight let the top four stretch away with two separate fights emerging, Checa chasing Melandri while Biaggi piled the pressure on Rea. Melandri's advantage lasted for no more than three laps as Checa outbraked the BMW into turn one and the Althea Ducati, despite giving away a straight-line speed deficit, eased away. Despite a brief rally late on which saw Melandri set the fastest lap of the race, Checa took a comfortable victory, his fifth at Miller.

The battle for the final rostrum position wasn't as straightforward as Rea hung on to third despite intense pressure from Biaggi. The Aprilia eventually edged ahead with six laps to go with Biaggi leaving his braking later into Sunset and that would prove the decisive move despite Rea's best efforts on the final lap.

The last lap would bring disappointment for another Briton as Tom Sykes miserable race was completed. Eugene Laverty and Jakub Smrz had already demoted him to seventh before Chaz Davies sneaked past within the final 4.907km, leaving him a disappointing eighth. Seventh for the second race in succession represented a tremendous result for Davies whose rookie season continues to show improvement. Michel Fabrizio finished ninth with Leon Haslam struggling to tenth after a poor Superpole session on Sunday.

The home spectators failed to see any of their riders score points as John Hopkins crashed out on lap eight while debutants Shane Turpin and Jake Holden finished a lap behind, the latter having taken a trip through the gravel along the way.