Tom Sykes has taken a controversial first World Superbike Championship victory after keeping it upright in atrocious conditions at the Nurburgring.
In a race defined by terrible weather conditions, Noriyuki Haga
looked destined for an impressive lights-to-flag win for PATA Aprilia, but having pulled out a lead of more than ten seconds, an intense shower on lap thirteen would eliminate many of the front runners, including Haga.
His cruel retirement duly promoted a stunned Sykes up to first position, the Briton holding on for two more laps before the race was halted and the result declared. The victory marks his first win at WSBK
level and Kawasaki's first success since Chris Walker
won in strikingly similar conditions at Assen back in 2006.
It was a dramatic end to what promised to be an eventful race after a sharp shower, as often occurs thanks to the Nurburgring's position in the Eiffel Mountains, saturated the circuit shortly before the start.
Declared a wet race and prompting treaded tyres all round, the field tiptoed into the first corner hairpin with remarkably little incident, though Jonathan Rea did himself few favours when his move up the inside saw him run wide, while Sykes was lucky not to be sent off by the Castrol Honda rider when the Ulsterman scythed back onto track into the side of the Kawasaki.
Nonetheless, everyone remained upright, with Haga slipping into the lead, ahead of the recovered Rea, Sykes, Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri.
Steadily, the order began to fragment between those feeling more confident in the awful conditions, with Haga lapping consistently faster than those behind. As a reference point, pole sitter Carlos Checa
ended the first lap in 14th, the Spaniard keen to keep out of trouble.
Haga's cause was aided on lap two as Rea run wide at turn one again, promoting Sykes – whose two Kawasaki pole positions had come in wet conditions - up to second position, but the Aprilia rider remained the fastest man on circuit and steadily built his lead up as he took advantage of the clearer conditions ahead.
With the rain easing somewhat, several riders began to push on, including Leon Haslam, though the BMW rider would become the first to succumb on lap three with a crash at the NGK chicane.