Reigning champion Carlos Checa
has moved into the lead of the 2012 World Superbike Championship standings after completing a resounding double victory at Imola.
Recovering from a fraught first-half of the race after becoming embroiled in a lively battle with Max Biaggi
and Leon Haslam, which duly allowed Tom Sykes to establish a three second lead at one stage, Checa's ability to nurse his Pirelli tyres nonetheless ensured he was never out of victory contention.
Shaking off the attentions of his rivals as the race entered its second-half, Checa duly caught and passed Sykes on lap 15 before proceeding to a fairly comfortable third win in four races.
The result means Checa has inched ahead of Biaggi in the overall standings by four points after the local favourite was unable to get onto the podium in either race.
Starting from pole position for the fourth race in succession, Sykes got off the line well and though Biaggi would out-brake him into the opening turn, the Aprilia's wider line allowed the Kawasaki back ahead to lead the first lap of the race.
With the top three proceeding to break away, lap times tumbled as Sykes, Checa and Biaggi jostled for position, the trio each dipping beneath the lap record at one stage. The leading group of three soon became four when Haslam, buoyed by two consecutive record laps himself, attached the increasingly competitive S1000RR onto the tail of the front runners to get into the hunt for a win.
However, with Checa and Biaggi tripping over one another as they swapped positions four times in two laps, Sykes was able to stretch his advantage into a fairly commanding lead.
Indeed, a new lap record of 1min 47.552secs – three tenths under the existing marker – allowed him to move three seconds up the road and into a potential winning position as the second-half of the race loomed.
As substantial as the margin appeared, however, Checa remained a clear threat and once he had dispatched of the chasing pack, which now had Haslam ahead of Biaggi, he quickly set about reeling in Sykes.