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Marco Melandri has closed the gap to Max Biaggi
in World Superbike Championship standings after biding his time to snatch victory from Tom Sykes in tricky conditions at Brno.
A race that began in damp-dry conditions, Melandri barely featured during the opening half as he felt his way into proceedings, but steadily worked his way to the front of a six-strong leading pack to decisively grab the lead with three laps remaining.
Prior to that, the race was proving unpredictable, particularly during the opening laps as the circuit steadily dried from its original damp state. Indeed, with some riders – including pole sitter Tom Sykes - diving to the very outside of some corners in an effort to seek the dry line, the first few bends would shake up the order immediately.
As such, while Sykes, Davide Giugliano and Carlos Checa
held station in first, second and third at the end of the opening lap, Maxime Berger had scythed his way from 19th to fourth, while Loris Baz was also up to fifth having started down in 15th, just ahead of a tentative Melandri.
As it turns out, Berger had begun the race with a cut front tyre, the extra grip helping him forge his way right to the front of the field to snatch the lead of a WSBK race for the first time in his career on lap three.
Giugliano swiftly followed through into second place, but the Italian rider – who has been in fine form at Brno this weekend – would see his race come to an abrupt halt when he crashed out on lap four. With Baz also through on team-mate Sykes, it was an unexpected sight at the front of the field by lap five.
Even so, with the circuit beginning to dry entirely, Berger would inevitably begin to see his pace fall, the Effenbert Liberty Ducati rider eventually ceding the lead on lap seven and steadily slipping down the order thereafter.
By this stage Sykes was back ahead of Baz, while Jonathan Rea would also get the better of the young Frenchman on lap eight.
With half of the race completed, Sykes led a busy front group of Rea, Baz, Checa, Eugene Laverty, Leon Haslam and Melandri, while Biaggi had made fairly minimal headway from his 14th place starting position in 11th.