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Sylvain Guintoli has immediately proven himself as a fitting replacement for retired reigning World Superbike champion Max Biaggi
by claiming a superb victory on his Aprilia debut at Phillip Island.
The Frenchman, who started on the second row in sixth place, was in excellent form as he methodically picked his way up the order, assuming the lead from team-mate Eugene Laverty on lap 15 and streaking away to claim his fourth career victory.
A superb start to the season for 2012 champions Aprilia as it filled every spot on the podium, though Laverty – who had led from the first turn – would lose out to his new team-mate, he would have the minor satisfaction of re-passing Michel Fabrizio
with two corners to go to finish in second place, ahead of the Italian.
Indeed, for much of the race it seemed Laverty would be difficult to beat, the Irishman getting the jump at the lights to lead into the opening bend, a margin he would steadily increase as his rivals squabbled behind him.
Initially, Tom Sykes would lead the chase, ahead of pole sitter Carlos Checa, Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam, with Guintoli holding station in sixth at the end of the opening lap.
Showing few signs of the lengthy winter break as they immediately rediscovered their racing spirit, a bout of bar-to-bar racing would see Checa, Haslam and Melandri all repeatedly swap positions over the coming laps.
By lap five, Laverty had increased his lead to 1.3secs over Honda's Haslam, the Briton prompting a few tense moments as he repeatedly rebuffed his rivals into turn one with some aggressive wide lines.
Checa held down third position, ahead of a deposed Sykes, while Guintoli's steady progress was now underway as he rose to fifth at the expense of Melandri.