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Max Biaggi has clinched the 2012 World Superbike Championship by the tiniest of margins after doing just what he needed to do to fend off Tom Sykes in the overall standings.
A fascinating race that began with Biaggi a sizeable 14.5 points ahead of Sykes following his race one accident, Sykes knew that he would need a win to keep the pressure on his rival, while Biaggi required just a fifth place finish to complete his objective.
And so it proved, Biaggi producing a notably tentative performance but doing just enough to cross the line in fifth place to negate Sykes's fourth win of the season. It means the pair end the season split by just 0.5 points, the smallest margin ever recorded in the history of the series.
Coming into the race knowing a fifth place would be good enough to secure the title, regardless of where Sykes finished, Biaggi still had work to do from tenth position and a laboured start did him few favours as he rounded the first lap in the same spot.
Pole sitter Sykes, on the other hand, had swept into the lead aggressively at the first turn and though Biaggi's team-mate Eugene Laverty would draft by on the run to the Adelaide hairpin, the Kawasaki rider would re-emerge out front by the end of the opening revolution.
With furious calculations going on behind the scenes, Biaggi's progress was minimal initially, only picking off Loris Baz in ninth position on lap five.
Furthermore, with the front five breaking away – with Sykes still out front -, Biaggi's margin for error was quickly shrinking with three-quarters of the race still to run.
However, the Italian would receive a significant break on lap six when arch rival – and his closest championship rival up until the final round – Marco Melandri crashed spectacularly out of sixth place on the exit of Imola, an accident that would force Davide Giugliano onto the gravel in avoidance and prompt Loris Baz to also come off his bike.
Promoting Biaggi up to seventh place, that soon became sixth when Leon Haslam ran on at Lycee and slipped from fourth place down to seventh.
In fact, Haslam's error would prove pivotal in the fight for the title, the mistake putting fifth place, which was several seconds up the road beforehand, now in sight of Biaggi.
Taking immediate advantage, though Biaggi didn't help his cause when he ran wide at Lycee on lap eight and slipped behind Giugliano again, he would use the superior straight line pace of the RSV4 to pass the first Althea Ducati on lap 13 before pulling a similar move on Checa on lap 15.
A fitting pass for the championship on the outgoing champion, Biaggi steadily extended his advantage over the Althea Ducati pair knowing that he just had to stay where he was to seal the title.
Further up the road, Sykes was doing everything he needed to do up at the front, keeping Sylvain Guintoli and then Jonathan Rea at bay from start-to-finish to complete his fourth win of the season.
Immediately turning around to see where Biaggi would cross the line, though the Italian would come through 13 seconds behind, the 11 points for fifth place were exactly what he required to hold off his rival by the very smallest of margins.
Delight for Aprilia, who have also been crowned manufacturers' champions, it is the second WSBK title of Biaggi's career and his sixth motorcycle world championship.
By contrast, it is an agonising conclusion for Sykes, who will no doubt rue the fact he was only awarded half-points for his win at Monza earlier in the season. Indeed, while the Kawasaki rider will be thrilled to finish as runner-up, it is a bitter end to an otherwise magnificent breakthrough season.
Amidst all the drama of the title fight, Rea secured a welcome podium after his dramatic exit from the first race, while race one winner Guintoli completed his second podium of the day in third, in doing so snatching seventh in the overall standings from Haslam, who eventually crashed out.
Laverty hung back in fourth position ready to swap places with team-mate Biaggi if required, before deciding to keep the place himself.
Giugliano got the better of team-mate Checa to finish his rookie season in sixth position, while Chaz Davies concluded his ParkinGO tenure with a solid eighth place finish, the Welshman now preparing to switch to BMW for the 2013 season.
Ayrton Badovini secured his second top ten finish of the day in ninth, ahead of a battered and bruised Leon Camier, who shrugged off an arm injury sustained in race one to finish in tenth.
Another race of fairly high attrition, all 15 finishers would score points with Maxime Berger, Claudio Corti, Lorenzo Zanetti, Hiroshi Aoyama and Norino Brignola all claiming digits in 11th through to 15th.