Carlos Checa has won his 15th World Superbike Championship race of the season after hunting down and passing long-time leader Sylvain Guintoli at Portimao.
Guintoli had looked on course for a maiden WSBK
victory for both himself and rookie team Effenbert Liberty Ducati after an aggressive opening two laps saw him sprint to the front of the field.
However, despite an impressive first-half of the race as he broke away from the pack, the threat would ultimately come from Checa, the Spaniard recovering from a slow start to push his way into second place with ten laps of the race remaining.
From here, despite trailing his Ducati counterpart by two seconds, Checa worked his way back into contention, moving onto the tail of Guintoli with three laps to go and making the pass.
Prior to that, Guintoli, who is yet to win a WSBK
race and has previously only climbed onto the podium on two occasions, came sprinting out of the blocks from fifth position on the grid, overtaking both Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri with bold passes on the opening lap, before negating the Ducati's slower top speed by slipstreaming past Rea into the lead at the start of lap three.
From here, Guintoli defied expectations by steadily increasing his margin over Rea during the opening half of the race, the Frenchman setting the fastest lap to leave the chasing pack almost two seconds behind him.
That 'pack' was headed up by Rea until lap 13 when Checa overtook him for second position. The new champion had spent much of the race trailing Yamahas, first Laverty – though the Irishman would be eliminated on lap three after a spectacular wobble, one that almost threw him off the bike, prompted a visit to the pit lane – and then Melandri. However, the Italian proved a tougher challenge, matching Checa's lines before eventually succumbing on lap 12.
Dispatching of Rea less than a lap later, Checa signalled his intentions by immediately getting the gap down towards one second. For his part, Guintoli maintained the pressure, upping his pace in an attempt to disrupt Checa's progress.
However, Checa would show again why he has been so dominant this year, lapping consistently to get onto Guintoli's tail with three laps remaining and diving past at the first opportunity. From here, Checa would stretch away, crossing the line 2.8secs ahead, a gap that doesn't quite do justice to Guintoli's impressive efforts.