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Laverty wins, Biaggi puts one hand on title

23 September 2012

CLICK HERE to view WSBK Race 2 Results.

Max Biaggi will head into the final round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship needing just two solid finishes to secure his second title after capitalising on Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri's misfortune at Portimao, while Eugene Laverty claimed his first win as an Aprilia rider.

Biaggi began the second encounter with a 14.5 point advantage over race one winner Sykes and 22.5 points over Melandri, but with the latter failing to start after injuring himself in his race one accident and the former retiring with technical issues, Biaggi's run to third place puts him 30.5 points clear with two races and 50 points remaining.

Indeed, the race began in the knowledge that Melandri's title hopes are all but over after he failed to make the start line. Suffering a suspected bruised kidney when he crashed on the opening lap of the first race – where he was subsequently struck by the unsighted Chaz Davies – Melandri's trip to the local hospital meant he would be consigned to another non-score.

Instead, it was Sykes that started as Biaggi's closest rival following his third win of the season in the opening encounter, the Kawasaki rider signalling his intentions of a double victory in race two as he diced with the fast-starting Laverty for the lead during the opening turns.

Laverty held firm to end the first lap in the lead, but while Sykes would be demoted to third by a determined Davies on lap two, he was still running just ahead of Biaggi.

However, having enjoyed fortune in race one when the restart gave him the chance to get back into victory contention, Sykes's luck would run out this time as smoke began billowing from his ailing Kawasaki. Forcing organisers to call him to a stop, while he remains Biaggi's closest title rival with just Magny-Cours to go, the 30.5 gap will be difficult to bridge in one round.

Sykes's demise was swiftly followed by second place Davies crashing out, the Nurburgring winner ending a frustrating day in the gravel trap when he spun off at turn 11.

With Laverty now more than three seconds in the lead and Biaggi up to second place, the race seemed to be going the way of the Aprilia pair, though the Italian opted to favour caution when Jonathan Rea came by him.

Holding station in third, Biaggi looked set to stay there, only for him to come under intense pressure from former team-mate Leon Camier aboard the FIXI Crescent Suzuki during the latter stages

The Briton had spent several laps trying to get on the tail of the Aprilia, but his first attempt at passing on lap 19 nearly ended in disaster when he dived for a gap and made contact with Biaggi. Despite the fairly solid impact, both riders stayed upright, but while Camier resumed his efforts to grab third, a mechanical problem on the penultimate lap would ultimately lead to a bitter retirement.

Up ahead, Laverty came into the last lap facing increasing pressure from a charging Rea, whose pace in the final revolutions would see him crawling over the back of the Aprilia as they entered the home straight for the last time.

Ultimately though Rea wouldn't have time to challenge Laverty, the Irishman holding on to secure a long-awaited first victory as an Aprilia rider, a result that also puts the Italian marque on the cusp of the manufacturers' title.

Behind Rea, Biaggi came across the line in what became a very lonely third, well ahead of Sylvain Guintoli and Carlos Checa in fourth and fifth, the outgoing champion fighting back after dropping as low as 14th with a mistake on lap two.

Ayrton Badovini completed one of his better results of the season in sixth place, ahead of newly-signed Kawasaki rider Loris Baz and Michel Fabrizio.

Fresh from his stunning run to fifth in race one, Brett McCormick completed a successful day with a ninth place finish, just ahead of Effenbert Liberty Ducati team-mate Lorenzo Lanzi.

With all 15 finishers scoring points, John Hopkins, Lorenzo Zanetti, David Salom, Alexander Lundh and Norino Brignola all received digits for reaching the chequered flag.


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