Tom Sykes has extended his lead in the World Superbike Championship to 22 points - the largest it has been all season - after producing an aggressive ride to victory in the first race of the weekend at Laguna Seca.

A twice interrupted encounter, it took three attempts for the race to reach a chequered flag, but while Sykes - who had been chasing Sylvain Guintoli for the lead at the time of both red flags - suffered his worst start when it mattered at the third getaway, a determined fight back would see him claw his way back to the front.

Indeed, a hefty clash of handlebars with Guintoli on the run down to the first corner would leave Sykes battling a bent brake lever, but he was nonetheless able to get past Guintoli, Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies over the course of the shortened 12 lap sprint to prevail.

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With main rival Guintoli managing only a fifth place finish, Sykes's seventh win of the season gives him a relatively healthy lead in the standings with a race to come this weekend.

"It was hard having three starts but it ended up good for us with a race win. Sylvain Guintoli was riding really strong but when it counted, in the last of the three legs of the race, he had a bit of an issue.

"We came together at the entry to turn one off the start and our contact pushed my brake lever down from its normal position. That was a bit awkward to deal with for a little while but I got my head around it.

"I think the short race may have favoured some of our competitors and the BMW guys were really fast out of the traps. I was pushing to stay with those guys for a while but in the end it was a good race for us and it played out well for myself and the Ninja ZX-10R. Another race tomorrow so that is what I am thinking about now."