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Tom Sykes has taken full advantage of Sylvain Guintoli's first retirement of the 2013 World Superbike Championship with a comfortable fourth win of the season at Imola.
Coming into the Italian race with a healthy 28 point advantage over Sykes in the overall standings, it was Guintoli's turn to suffer misfortune at the hands of his expiring Aprilia, the Frenchman retiring from the race early on having been running in third position.
His demise duly gave Sykes the ultimate opportunity to recover lost ground on his main rival, the Kawasaki rider doing exactly that as he fended off a spirited attack by Davide Giugliano to seal victory by more than seven seconds.
Starting from pole position, Sykes was beaten down to the first bend by fellow front row sitters Jonathan Rea and Davide Giugliano, though Rea's challenge would falter seconds later when he ran wide on the exit of Villeneuve, dropping himself out of the top ten.
As such, Giugliano moved into the lead aboard the Althea Aprilia, a position he would hold for the opening six laps before Sykes squeezed past into Variante Alta. To Giugliano's credit, the Italian would cling onto Sykes in the following laps, the pair putting considerable distance between themselves and the chasing pack as they traded fastest laps.
However, Giugliano's hopes of a fairytale maiden WSBK win on home soil would fade as the race progressed, Sykes's record-breaking lap on the 14th revolution giving him the break that would see him pull away to the chequered flag.
A fourth win of the year for the British rider, and the ninth of his career, Sykes's win has duly reduced Guintoli's lead in the overall standings to three points.
Behind the impressive Giugliano, who matched his best-ever finish at WSBK level in second position, Laverty clung onto the final podium spot to save some face for the factory Aprilia team following Guintoli's retirement.
However, his cause was arguably aided somewhat by a late DNF for Rea who, having fought his way back up to fourth position, would lose his Honda on the exit of Rivazza with two laps remaining, forcing him into retirement.
His exit would promote BMW's Marco Melandri back up to fourth position, while countryman Michel Fabrizio made it three Italians and three Aprilias inside the top five in fifth
Having spent much of his race staring at the back of Leon Camier's Suzuki – which in turn allowed Rea and Fabrizio to catch and pass him – Chaz Davies eventually got the better of his countryman to reel off a sixth place finish, with Camier following up in seventh.
Behind them, Ayrton Badovini paid for a poor start, but was still the highest-placed Ducati rider in eighth, while Loris Baz won the battle of the 'walking wounded' to finish in ninth, ahead of Leon Haslam.
Outside the top ten, Carlos Checa – a five-time race winner at Imola – continued to struggle with the after-effects of his qualifying spill to labour home a distant 11th, ahead of Max Neukirchner and Federico Sandi.
Meanwhile, Noriyuki Haga's rather disappointing return to WSBK competition would see him scrape a point in 15th, though the Japanese rider would still suffer the indignity of being last across the line after being passed by Grillini BMW team-mate Vittorio Iannuzzo on the final lap.