Troy Bayliss has won the first World Superbike race of the weekend at Donington Park after an event fraught with action, controversy and ill-temper.

The Aussie rider was in imperious form to deny wild-card Tom Sykes a stunning victory on home ground as various riders hit problems. Only 14 riders, from 33, would see the chequered flag.

With the weather clearing in time for the first race, most of the riders began on slick tyres for what would be the first session of the weekend to be held in the dry, but the damp patches still caught James Ellison out, whose fifth place on the grid became 18th on the road when he slid across the pack with no grip and was clipped by another rider.

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Up at the front, it was Ryuichi Kiyonari who surged into the lead, ahead of Sykes, the Rizla rider up from seventh after a superb start. However, he would lose the position to Troy Bayliss by the end of the lap.

Ruben Xaus emerged in fourth, ahead of Troy Corser, Carlos Checa, Max Biaggi, Leon Haslam, Cal Crutchlow and Chris Walker.

Given his confidence in the wet, the demise of Kiyonari on the second lap came as a massive surprise, the Japanese rider losing the back end of his Ten Kate Honda to slide off at the Old Hairpin. The team's bad fortune was compounded when Kenan Sofuoglu came down on the same lap.

Bayliss now led by a comfortable margin but Sykes was remaining in touch and as the laps rolled on, he was steadily breaking the gap down to the leader. Reeling him in gradually, Sykes was on his tail of the Ducati by lap five and giving the championship leader real pressure.

With Bayliss eager to protect his championship advantage, it perhaps wasn't surprising to find he didn't put up too much of an effort when Sykes slid beneath him at Coppice on lap seven and took the lead.

And away Sykes went, the wild-card rider pulling away quickly as he lapped considerably better than those behind him. By lap ten, he was almost four seconds up the road.

However, lap ten was when the race was first brought to a halt following a flurry of accidents at Coppice. It seems the engine on Noriyuki Haga's Yamaha was letting go and was spilling oil on the circuit in the process. Going quite far before realising his problem, Haga - who was running fifth - had given the notoriously tricky Coppice a good dousing before he pulled off the circuit.

The biggest casualty was Haga's team-mate Corser, who barrelled out of third place for his sixth crash of the weekend. He was promptly followed by Makoto Tamada, who spectacularly high-sided on his PSG-1 Kawasaki, while Checa was also down.

The second time Checa had fallen, it compounded a torrid time for much of the more fancied riders after Max Neukirchner earlier came off his Suzuki. His demise meant second, third, fourth and fifth in the championship would not make the restart. Furthermore, Crutchlow and Walker wouldn't be back out on track after suffering from technical problems shortly into the race.

With the riders back in the pit-lane as the marshals cleaned the circuit, only 20 riders would make the restart, which would now be based on aggregate times according to how they finished the ninth lap.

The loss of several top riders meant the order for the restart comprised of Sykes in the lead, Bayliss second, Haslam up to a superb third, Xaus fourth, Roberto Rolfo fifth from 25th on the grid, Yukio Kagayama sixth, Gregorio Lavilla seventh, Jakub Smrz eighth, Biaggi ninth and Michel Fabrizio tenth.

From the restart, Sykes got a fine getaway to move into the lead, followed by Haslam and Bayliss initially, the two riders passing each other several times before settling with the Brit just ahead.

However, it was all change on lap three when both Sykes and Haslam appeared to get caught out by a flag, shown when Fabrizio crashed out coming down to the Craner Curves. Prompting them to raise their hand and slow slightly, Bayliss wasn't fooled and swept past both riders into a sizeable lead.

By the time Sykes had realised his error, Haslam was also through, while Rolfo was back on both of their tails. The Althea Honda rider had produced a superb ride from towards the back of the grid, overtaking riders on nearly every revolution, while he even held the fastest lap at one time.

However, Rolfo was about to blot his copybook when he made a desperate move on Sykes into the chicane, one that saw him instead cut in front of second place Haslam and cause him to run wide. When Rolfo low-sided in his attempts to come to a stop, Haslam had nowhere to go but come off his bike. Rolfo was out on the spot, but while furious Haslam rejoined, he was now at the back of the field.

Sykes was back up to second place on the road, but remained in the lead on aggregate, albeit by less than a second. What followed would be some furious laps from both riders as they attempted to race each other, albeit several seconds apart on the road. Eventually, a string of fastest laps for Bayliss saw him snatch the lead from Sykes on lap 17, with six to go.

In reality, only three more laps would be completed before it began drizzling again, prompting both Bayliss and Sykes to raise their hands and the red flag to come out. However, the weather was not the reason for the stoppage, rather a crash for Xaus, which was seemingly caused by the rain.

Xaus had been a comfortable third when he slid off coming under Starkey's Bridge, but the fact he headed for the podium shows he wasn't shouldn't have lost the position. He wasn't the only one though as Vittorio Iannuzzo and Christian Zaiser both floundered in the worsening conditions.

With the results counted one lap previously, Bayliss won by 1.2secs from Sykes, who in turn had 27 seconds in hand over Biaggi, who rather looked rather bemused when he was told he was on the podium.

In all, just 14 riders made the finish line, meaning every single one that stayed upright scored a point.

It meant there was joy for Lavilla and Paul Bird Motorsport, who scored their best result of the season in fourth, while Kagayama took a fine fifth from 24th on the grid, ahead of Smrz and Nieto.

Haslam finished down the pack on the road, but his efforts earlier in the race meant he still recorded an eighth place finish, ahead of Karl Muggeridge and James Ellison, the latter having his charge back up the field undone by an off at the chicane.

Elsewhere, David Checa, Ayrton Badovini, Shinichi Nakatomi and Shuhei Aoyama claimed the remainder of the points.