Motorcycling: Checa claims double in season's opener

Carlos Checa made a great start to the new Superbike World Championship, taking maximum points from the opening round at Phillip Island in Australia. The Althea Ducati rider led the field throughout practice and qualifying at the Victoria track and was rarely troubled on his way to two comfortable wins.

Defending champion Max Biaggi looked like the man to take the fight to Checa aboard his Aprilia, but he could only claim two second places. Checa started both races from pole but was beaten off the line by Yamaha debutant Eugene Laverty. The Northern Irishman held the lead for three laps before Checa asserted his authority.

Biaggi was soon up to second but had little answer to the consistently strong pace of the Ducati, eventually finishing a lonely second. Derbyshire rider Leon Haslam produced arguably the ride of the day to stick his BMW on the podium in third, fighting off Laverty, Marco Melandri and Michel Fabrizio.

It was Haslam who beat Checa off the line at the start of race two, but once again the former MotoGP man quickly moved into a lead that he was never to lose. As Checa shot away, it was left for Biaggi to lock horns with former grand prix adversary Melandri.

The two Italians enjoyed a thrilling battle for the runners-up spot, with Melandri putting one particularly robust move on Biaggi at the hairpin.