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Loris Baz has taken his maiden World Superbike Championship victory in astonishing circumstances at Silverstone after producing an incredibly brave performance in terrible conditions.
A breathless race from start-to-finish as the riders contended with intermittent showers, the decision to declare the race as wet at the start meant steady rain in the closing stages left the riders with no choice but to stay out on track, despite their slick tyres.
As such, few could have predicted who would win, with the lead changing hands several times in the closing stages as the riders tentatively negotiated the slippery circuit.
Even without the shower, the race could have been considered one of the finest World Superbike races in history with repeated passing manoeuvres amongst a lead group that for much of the race contained at least ten riders.
Had the race remained dry, Carlos Checa would have been favourite for a comfortable victory, the Spaniard recovering from a lap one scuffle with Baz and Leon Camier – which also put the latter wide – to work his way to the front and take the lead from Leon Haslam on lap four of 18.
Indeed, Checa had extended his advantage to more than three seconds by lap twelve, but suddenly appeared to slow, signalling the arrival of rain. Choosing not to be the rider testing the conditions first, Checa was swallowed up by the field very quickly, allowing Haslam to take over out front.
Crucially, with a wet race declared at the beginning, denoting that there was rain in the air but not on the circuit, there was no chance the race would be stopped. However, with only five laps remaining, there wasn't enough time to return to the pit lane to change bikes either.
As such, the race descended into who was more brave using slick tyres on an increasingly greasy surface. To their credit, the riders jostled cleanly amongst each other, but the disparity in cautiousness meant several unfancied riders were rising to the front.
As a result, with four laps to go, Haslam led Camier, Baz and Sykes, but just a lap later Camier would be off the circuit after crashing at Becketts, a cruel end to a race that had seen the Suzuki rider challenging for the podium throughout, while Haslam had Baz and the charging BMW Italias of Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio for company now.
However, with the leaders always more tentative than the following pack, the lead would constantly change hands in the final laps with Haslam dropping back, allowing Badovini, Baz, Fabrizio and Jonathan Rea to battle it out.
Heading into the final lap, Fabrizio was the surprise leader, ahead of Rea, Baz and Badovini, an order they maintained heading onto the Hangar Straight for the final time.
At this stage, Rea looked the most confident, but the long straight would allow third place Baz to slipstream the two riders ahead of him and scythe past both Rea and Fabrizio into the lead at Stowe.
With just two corners remaining, rookie rider Baz held his nerve – despite wobbling on the wet kerb across the finish line – to complete one of World Superbikes' most surprising victories.
A second win of the season for Kawasaki, Baz's result was arguably the most deserving beyond his bravery in the closing stages since he had been battling towards the front in the dry from the very beginning regardless.
Drama continued to unfold behind the leaders, however, with Fabrizio just holding off Rea through the long final bend, in turn opening a gap for team-mate Badovini to slip through. However, Badovini's momentum carried him onto the slippery kerb, sending him spectacularly off the bike.
Remarkably, he was still classified in third, despite being on the floor as he came across the line, while Rea was fourth despite ploughing into the BMW having had nowhere to go.
Though title contenders Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri didn't make too much of an impression at the front, the race could prove a pivotal moment in the championship fight after Biaggi crashed heavily on the final lap when he touched the kerb. Though Melandri couldn't capitalise entirely as he scored nine points for seventh, it does reduce Biaggi's lead to 14 points now.
Elsewhere, Checa and Haslam were left a rather disgruntled fifth and sixth having led most of the way between them, while Sykes favoured caution on the way to eighth after falling back when the rain began.
Davide Giugliano and Eugene Laverty completed the top ten, while Maxime Berger, Lorenzo Zanetti, Hiroshi Aoyama, Chaz Davies and David Salom rounded out the remaining points' paying positions.
Elsewhere, front row sitters Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz were punished for choosing to start on wet tyres, the pair finishing a lap down on the leaders.