Marco Melandri has won his third World Superbike race of the season after prevailing in a tense battle with title rivals Max Biaggi
and Carlos Checa
An immaculate display of precision riding from all three riders, Melandri and Biaggi circulated nose-to-tail for almost the entirety of the race, swapping positions on three occasions before the former struck the decisive pass with three laps remaining.
Indeed, Biaggi, having tailed Melandri for several laps, looked good for victory when he pounced at turn two with less than four laps remaining, but the Yamaha rider would nix any attempt by his rival to pull away with a masterful pass on the exit of the penultimate bend on lap eighteen.
Up to that point, the pair had provided close company for one another, resuming their battle from the previous round at Motorland Aragon, with Biaggi snatching the lead from pole position and Melandri giving chase once he dispatched fast-starting team-mate Eugene Laverty on lap two.
Swiftly onto Biaggi's tail, Melandri shadowed his rival before striking on lap nine with a pass into turn two. At this stage, the battle for lead was now a three-way, with Checa joining the conflict having made up almost two seconds in five laps.
Indeed, championship leader Checa's progress gave the impression he would be a factor in the fight for the lead, even more so when an error by Biaggi on lap 13 gifted him second place.
However, the Aprilia's superior straight-line speed over the Ducati would see Biaggi through again shortly afterwards, Checa's challenge seemingly fading from this point as he kept a close watching brief without getting embroiled in the lead challenge.
Instead, Biaggi turned his attentions back onto Melandri, making two failed passes on lap 15, during which Melandri simply cut back through, before making a move stick on lap 17, less than four laps remaining.
With Biaggi attempting a sprint to the finish line, Melandri stayed with his rival, pulling off a surprise pass on the exit of the penultimate bend and regaining the lead with two laps to go.