Noriyuki Haga has won a stunning first World Superbike race of the season after a late smattering of rain denied Max Neukirchner victory just two corners from the finish.
An outstanding performance by both Haga and Neukirchner, up from 13th and 14th on the grid respectively, Neukirchner snatched the lead off Haga at the start of the last lap, but drizzle around the back of the circuit caused him to have enough of a moment to allow his rival back through.
Although the German got close to re-taking the lead on the finishing straight, Haga would be classified the winner by just 0.032secs.
A race full of drama after many of the expected front runners fell by the wayside in a frantic opening lap, Haga and Neukirchner took advantage of the chaos around them to end the first revolution second and fifth.
Moving to the front by lap seven, Haga and Neukirchner shadowed one another for the remainder of the race as they broke away from the chasing pack, the pair twice swapping positions before Neukirchner appeared to have made the decisive move at the start of the final lap when he slipstreamed his way past.
However, a combination of damp conditions and evidence of rear tyre wear were taking its toll on the Suzuki, prompting a massive moment for the German at turn nine and allowing the close following Haga back through.
Not that Neukirchner was completely finished, fighting back on the exit of turn 12 and using his Suzuki's engine power to very nearly nip back ahead on the line. It wasn't enough to deny Haga though, the Ducati rider coming good on his promise to ignore his lowly starting position and enjoy a 'pressure free' race.
As expected, the closeness of the competition ensured the order at the end of lap one was very different to how it had started. Confidence among the riders wasn't helped by the decision to classify the race as wet following short shower a few minutes before the start.
Nonetheless, the front row got away evenly, with Jonathan Rea snatching the lead into turn one, ahead of Max Biaggi and pole sitter Ben Spies. However, Biaggi and Spies were about to see their races take a turn for the worse when the Italian ran too deep at turn two and was forced to sit up.