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Biaggi resists Melandri in Aragon duel
1 July 2012 CLICK HERE
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Max Biaggi has extended his lead in the World Superbike Championship standings to 60 points after prevailing in an absorbing scrap with Marco Melandri at Motorland Aragon.
The all-Italian contest raged for much of the race as Biaggi and Melandri traded passing manoeuvres, the pair proving a class above as they stretched their advantage over the opposition, culminating in an entertaining exchange in the latter laps.
Coming into the race with a comfortable 38.5 point advantage over Jonathan Rea in the overall standings, Biaggi's title aspirations were given an instant boost when the Ulsterman was eliminated at the opening bend.
Getting a poor start from sixth on the grid, Rea was shuffled into the mid-pack as they rounded the turn, the Honda rider getting tangled with Jakub Smrz to hit the deck. While Smrz retired on the spot, Rea got going again, but was too far back to make a dent on the top 15 by the chequered flag.
Up at the front, pole man Tom Sykes led initially, but would be overtaken by Eugene Laverty at the start of lap two, though both were fairly powerless to halt Max Biaggi's push to the front by lap four.
Immediately gapping his rivals, Biaggi was almost two seconds ahead by the time Melandri had worked his way up to second position, but a series of excellent laps would see him reel Biaggi in by the halfway point in the race.
Shadowing one another through the turns and barely separated in a straight line, there was little to choose between the pair before Melandri took advantage of a slight error by Biaggi on lap twelve to hit the front for the first time.
Biaggi repaid the compliment on the next lap when he dived through at the hairpin, a move Melandri would replicate somewhat more forcefully at the same bend on lap 15.
With just three laps remaining, Biaggi and Melandri ramped up the intensity by exchanging passes through the opening turns, the BMW rider nosing ahead only to be passed again by Biaggi with just over a lap remaining.
Setting up an exciting final lap prospect, Biaggi would nonetheless keep his lines clean to ensure Melandri couldn't have a run on him into the slow speed hairpin.
Completing his third consecutive victory – his fourth of the season –, Biaggi has multiplied his advantage in the overall standings at the expense of non-scorers Rea and Sykes.
Sykes had looked on course for a podium finish, despite the persistent attentions of Ayrton Badovini, Carlos Checa and Chaz Davies, but the scrap would come to an unsatisfying conclusion when Badovini made contact with Sykes at turn four on the final lap.
Sending Badovini, who was set to at least equal his best finish at WSBK level, down immediately, Sykes tried in vain to keep the squirreling Kawasaki upright, but would come crashing down, denying him a crucial 16 points.
Their misfortune elevated a delighted Checa into a fortuitous podium around his home circuit, while ParkinGO Aprilia's Davies found himself less than a second from a maiden rostrum finish in a fine fourth place.
With the remaining field being bumped up two positions at the chequered flag, Laverty finished fifth, though the Irishman won't be so enamoured with his substantial drop in pace during the second half of the race having run third for a time.
Michel Fabrizio spared some blushes at BMW Italia to claim sixth, the Italian putting in a stealthily impressive ride up the order from the back of the field having been delayed by the first corner incident.
His efforts were enough to demote Leon Haslam to seventh, the BMW rider struggling for speed as he spent much of his race dicing with Davide Giugliano in eighth.
Leon Camier found late pace to secure a welcome top ten finish in ninth on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki, while Maxime Berger brought scant joy to Effenbert Liberty Ducati in tenth following the first corner clash that eliminated Smrz and heavily delayed eventual 12th place finisher Sylvain Guintoli.
Rounding out the points' paying positions, Niccolo Canepa was 11th, Lorenzo Zanetti 13th, Hiroshi Aoyama 14th and John Hopkins 15th.