Eugene Laverty has won his first World Superbike Championship race at Monza after his dogged defence of the lead from Max Biaggi
was rewarded with a remarkable victory.
The Irishman took the lead at the start of the second lap, but while Biaggi repeatedly drafted alongside or even past him on the straights, Laverty calmly responded by being much stronger on the brakes and nudging back through.
His perseverance was rewarded mid-race when Biaggi bowed under pressure and made series of mistakes that caused him to lose crucial ground in the chasing pack. Though he recovered to second, Biaggi could not close the gap again.
A typically frenetic race, Biaggi – who had beaten Laverty to pole position by a clear six tenths – got away well, but was beaten into the first corner funnel by Troy Corser, while the rest of the field filed in behind them without incident.
Maintaining his place at the front through the duration of the opening lap, as expected Biaggi pulled alongside and slipped past the BMW as they crossed the finish line. However, both riders were caught unawares by Laverty, whose double slipstream propelled him up the inside into the first turn chicane.
From here, Laverty and Biaggi embarked on a tense toing and froing of the lead, Biaggi slipping past on lap three down the straight, only for Laverty to respond at Ascari around the outside and retake the position.
It would set the tone for the first-half of the race, Laverty getting better drive out of the long final bend, only for Biaggi to quickly recover the ground down the home straight. Crucially, however, it was rarely enough for him to be more daring on the brakes as Laverty, the Yamaha showing better anchors into the chicane.
Indeed, Laverty's strength on the brakes and through the bends was made evident when Biaggi drafted past at the start of lap seven, only to have Laverty edge back past on the outside of Rettifilo.
With seven laps remaining, the pressure eventually told on Biaggi as he missed the apex at Rettifilo and was forced to back off and trundle through the second half of the chicane. Immediately losing ground to Laverty, Biaggi was swallowed up by the chasing Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, dropping him to fourth.