Max Biaggi has won the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island after reigning champion Carlos Checa
dramatically crashed out of an early lead.
The runaway 2011 champion looked to be in control after assuming the lead of the race on lap three, but was coming under pressure from Biaggi when he suffered a spectacular high-side out of the final bend on lap five.
The accident would see Checa ejected at least 15 feet off the bike, though the Spaniard was able to walk away from the incident without any noticeable injury.
Prior to that, Checa appeared to be in good form as he snatched the early advantage from Tom Sykes, the Kawasaki rider supplementing his run to the first pole position of 2012 by leading the opening lap of the season too.
However, his joy lasted until lap three when Checa slid up the inside at Honda, while Biaggi followed him through into second place on the way to a new lap record on the fourth revolution, which in turn broke Troy Corser's long-standing 2007 marker.
Swiftly onto the tail of Checa, just as Biaggi was looking poised to slipstream past the Ducati down the home straight as they entered lap six, the reigning champion's race came to an end.
Promoting Biaggi into a comfortable lead having already broken the tow to Sykes, who was now back to second place, the Italian had little trouble maintaining his advantage over the remaining 17 laps.
The victory marks his first WSBK triumph at Phillip Island and his first win at the circuit since his success in the 2000 500GP World Championship race.
His cause was aided further by an entertaining scrap for second position that emerged between Sykes, Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri, the new BMW rider making exceptional early gains to lift himself up to fourth place from a lowly 13th on the grid.