- Tom Sykes secures his second win of the season with a dominant ride
- Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi complete the podium
- Jonathan Rea suffers a tumble
Less than 24 hours after it was announced that he will stay with Kawasaki for the 2013 World Superbike Championship, Tom Sykes has notched up his second win of the 2012 season with a dominant performance at the Moscow Raceway.
A race that began in tricky damp conditions after an earlier downpour, though each of the front runners would begin on slick tyres, it was Sykes that would be justly rewarded for his greater confidence in the critical early stages as he dived into the lead at the first bend and proceeded to multiply his advantage out front.
As his rivals adopted a more tentative approach to the opening laps, Sykes was already 3.3secs ahead within four laps, a push that would ultimately break the opposition as they indulged in an entertaining fight for second place.
Indeed, with Sykes cruising ahead, most eyes were trained on the action behind as several riders battled it out for the remaining spots on the podium.
The first moment of drama came just three laps into the race when pole sitter Carlos Checa crashed at the final bend, the Spaniard clipping the Honda of Jonathan Rea under braking as the Ulsterman came through to overtake for fifth.
Eliminating a very aggrieved Checa from the reckoning, an undeterred Rea latched himself onto the second place battle behind Leon Haslam, Eugene Laverty and Davide Giugliano, while a charging Chaz Davies – up from 13th – swelled the pack to a quintet.
Laverty, Giugliano and Rea moved ahead of Haslam on lap five when the BMW rider made a mistake and briefly ran off track, while Rea would take another lap to move into third position after making the most of his Honda's speed advantage relative to the twin-cylinder Ducati down the straight.
However, just as Rea looked to be priming himself for a move on Laverty, he would crash very suddenly at turn 13 on lap 11, the Ulsterman losing the front-end of his CBR1000RR to slide into retirement.
Promoting Davies, who had already passed Haslam, into third place, the pack would be depleted once more just three laps later when Giugliano slid off at turn 11, compounding Althea Ducati's frustrating start to the day.
With drama unfolding behind him, Laverty was still holding onto second place, but was now under increasing pressure from Davies and Haslam as the Aprilia rider began to contend with severe tyre issues over the course of the race's second-half.
Making the most of his RSV4's strength down the straight, Laverty was able to keep his lines tidy to retain second for much of the race, until lap 17 of 25 when Davies found a gap into turn 13 and muscled his way through.
Opening the door for the close-following Haslam and Marco Melandri, who had make good gains with a flurry of fast laps mid-race having been two seconds behind the chasing pack at one stage, the BMW pair joined Davies in overtaking Laverty.
With Laverty dropping away, the fight for the remaining podium positions looked set to come down to Davies, Haslam and Melandri, but more drama was to come when Davies ran wide at turn three on lap 19, prompting Haslam to dive for the opened gap. However, Davies would shut the door as Haslam approached, the pair making solid contact, enough for the BMW rider to fall from his bike, while Davies stayed upright but lost time running off the circuit.
Their collision duly allowed Melandri to ascend into a somewhat unexpected second position, the Italian being rewarded for coming on strong in the final laps and staying out of trouble as chaos unravelled around him.
The intensity of the second place fight was of little concern for Sykes up ahead though, the Kawasaki rider benefitting from the drama behind to finish almost nine seconds ahead of Melandri at the chequered flag.
Marking his second win of the season – and Kawasaki's third -, the result also cements Sykes's third place in the standings at the expense of the unfortunate Checa.
Melandri held on for second, but will be frustrated to have seen his key title rival Max Biaggi standing alongside him on the podium as he too benefitted from his rivals' problems.
Indeed, having struggled for pace throughout the race Biaggi had looked on course for fifth place – which would have reduced his lead in the standings to just 1.5 points -, but a terminal crash for Davies, who had recovered to third after his off, with two laps remaining would hand him fourth before Laverty allowed his team-mate to overtake for third on the final corner. As a result, the margin between the two rivals stands at 6.5 points in Biaggi's favour.
Ailing with severe tyre issues late on, Laverty held on for fourth place at the expense of the hapless Davies, whose ride from 13th on the grid deserved more than the DNF he ended up achieving.
With just 14 riders finishing on the lead lap, Michel Fabrizio came through from 17th on the grid to finish in fifth position, the Italian getting the better of Haslam, who brought his damaged BMW home for solid points in sixth.
The high attrition rate also helped Niccolo Canepa, Lorenzo Zanetti, John Hopkins and David Salom record their respective best results of the season in seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth, while Silverstone race winner Loris Baz couldn't repeat his heroics after an early mistake consigned him to 11th.
Ayrton Badovini and Hiroshi Aoyama followed in 12th and 13th, while Alexander Lundh had the honour of scoring two points on his WSBK debut aboard the Pedercini Kawasaki.
Behind him, Leon Camier picked up the 15th and final point, despite finishing two laps down after his decision to start on intermediate tyres forced him to pit.
A disastrous race for Ducati, whose qualifying form eluded them as they visibly struggled to stay with their rivals on the faster stretches, Sylvain Guintoli joined Checa and Giugliano in crashing out.