Defending champion Carlos Checa sits at the top of the World Superbike standings after a double win in Imola on Sunday.

The Althea Racing Ducati rider's double was his first of the season in just the second round, but he had to work hard for it amid a strong challenge from British duo Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam.

Kawasaki's Sykes even set a new lap record of one minute 47.552 seconds in the day's second race, but that was not enough to overhaul the Spaniard.

Northern Ireand’s Jonathan Rea lies in sixth place overall after finishing in ninth and fifth in Sunday’s races, while Eugene Laverty is in eighth place after finishing fifth and sixth.

The Toomebridge man tweeted: “5th and 6th today. Didn't set the world on fire but it's something to build on. The Aprilia sure can get [off] the line though!”

Having won but also crashed out in the season-opener in Australia, Checa remained upright throughout today, stealing the overall lead back from Max Biaggi by four points.

Having secured a double victory on the same track a year ago, the omens were good for Checa although Sykes gave him plenty to think about.

Starting on pole in the second race he shot out of the blocks, but Checa held back before making his move with seven laps to go.

Sykes did hold on to third, though, despite coming under heavy pressure from Haslam.

It was a third podium finish out of four for Sykes, who sits in that position in the overall standings.

It was something of a case of deja vu for Sykes, who had also started on pole in the opening race before being hunted down.

He led the way for the majority of the opening half of the race, but Checa pounced 12 laps in and held on, with Sykes again forced into the silver position ahead of Haslam, back on the bike despite breaking a leg at Phillip Island last time out.

There was disappointment for the home crowd, though, in the shape of Biaggi who was unable to keep pace on his Aprilia and finished in fourth, as well as surrendering the overall lead.