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Fabien Foret has won the second round of the 2013 World Supersport Championship after mechanical problems eliminated long-time leader Sam Lowes on the very final lap of the race.
An engrossing race that would see the pendulum of momentum swing between a number of riders right up until the final corners, Foret's victory would come at the expense of both Lowes and Kenan Sofuoglu, the pre-race favourites both failing to reach the chequered flag.
Indeed, Foret seemed a very unlikely candidate for victory when he, along with Mahi Kawasaki team-mate, Sofuoglu ran wide at the first turn, the Frenchman losing out in particular as he was shuffled down to 11th position.
With Sofuoglu also out of position in fifth, Sam Lowes assumed the lead, only to find himself amidst a gaggle of rivals coming down the back straight for the first time with Michael van der Mark scything in front to lead at the end of the opening lap.
However, the first act of an intriguing race would play out on lap two when Sofuoglu peeled off the circuit with an apparent mechanical problem. Cruising back to the pit lane, the round one race winner would find himself failing to make the end of a race for only the second time in 30 consecutive races.
With Sofuoglu out of the picture, Lowes would bide his time behind van der Mark before putting himself ahead at the start of lap three, in turn dragging feisty rookie Riccardo Russo along with him.
Proceeding to gap the squabbling opposition, Lowes seemed to be cruising away only to make an error at the start of lap seven and run on at the first turn. Dropping to fourth position, Lowes's mistake would promote a stunned Kev Coghlan into the lead, the Briton having worked his way to second just as his countryman made his error.
However, the Scot's joy would prove to be agonisingly shortlived as he low-sided off his DMC Kawasaki just a lap later at the tricky second turn.
His demise would duly hand the lead to Foret, whose determined fight up the order from the first lap faux pas was rewarded with a somewhat unexpected spell in front, comfortably ahead of van der Mark and the recovering Lowes.
Eventually dispatching of the stubborn Dutchman on lap nine, Lowes went off in search of Foret ahead of him, reeling off a series of fast laps to put himself on the Kawasaki's tail before pouncing for the resumption of the lead on lap 13.
However, though many expected him to pull away with five laps remaining, Lowes was struggling to get distance between himself and Foret, whose more aggressive approach was keeping him in touch with his rival as the last revolution loomed.
Setting up a potential grandstand finish, Foret would be saved the effort when Lowes's Yakhnich Yamaha slowed coming into the final lap. With Foret quickly pouncing, Lowes proceeded to continue in the hope that he could make it to the finish line. However, his efforts were in vain as he was forced to park the bike mid-way around the lap, marking a heart-breaking conclusion for the youngster.
His misfortune duly played into the hands of a delighted Foret, who crossed the line to claim his 16th career WSS victory, one that lifts him to the head of the overall standings as a result. He is now two points ahead of van der Mark, who duly inherited what became a fairly lonely second place on the Pata Honda for his second consecutive podium.
Behind him, an intense fight for fourth was transformed into a podium battle between a trio of Kawasaki-riding Italians, with the more experienced Luca Scassa getting the nod on the Intermoto machine, just ahead of Go Eleven's Andrea Antonelli and Puccetti's Russo, the latter particularly impressing in his first-ever WSS race.
Indeed, the top ten would receive a significant shuffle on the final lap beyond Lowes after Florian Marino and Raffaele de Rosa also came together late on, the trio's demise allowing Lorenzo Zanetti to claim sixth position, ahead of Jack Kennedy on the RivaMoto Honda.
Vladimir Leonov spared some blushes at Yakhnich to bring his R6 home in eighth, while Roberto Rolfo took full advantage of the high attrition rate to claim a welcome top ten finish for the new ParkinGO MV Agusta 675 from 23rd on the grid.
Elsewhere, Luca Marconi picked up his maiden top ten finish in WSS for PTR Honda, though the team was denied a better result when Sheridan Morais – who started fourth – retired on the opening lap.
Outside the top ten, Alex Baldolini crossed the line 11th, ahead of Massimo Roccoli and Coghlan, the Scot rewarded for picking up his bike and continuing to score three points in 13th, while VFT Yamaha's Fabio Menghi and Suriano Suzuki's Roberto Tamburini assumed the final points.