Leon Haslam has extended his lead in the World Superbike standings after coming out on top in a pulsating first race of the weekend in Valencia.

The Suzuki Alstare rider, who has now finished inside the top two in all five races this season so far, moved to the front on lap five to manage the early pace before forging ahead mid-race.

Eventually winning by almost two seconds, Biaggi followed in second position having lost his chance of challenging for victory by getting bottled up behind James Toseland until the latter stages, the Briton's spirited effort eventually being rewarded with a podium finish in third.

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Starting from fourth on the grid, Haslam held onto his position through the opening few turns, slotting in behind Troy Corser, getting a superb start to lead from fifth on the grid, Carlos Checa and Biaggi. Pole sitter Crutchlow, by contrast, would find himself seventh by the end of lap one.

A hot tip for victory prior to the start of the weekend, Checa, who had run a consistently fast race pace during free practice, wasted no time in making his move, passing Corser before the end of the opening lap and then again at the start of lap two after the Australian had nosed ahead down the straight.

It was a position the Spaniard would capitalise on, the Phillip Island race winner eking out his advantage into lap three, ahead of Corser and Haslam, who in turn had crucially pushed his way past Biaggi.

However, Checa's hopes of a fairytale win on home turf would soon be scuppered when he lost the front-end of his Althea Ducati into turn eight, the experienced racer doing wonders to keep the bike pointing in the right direction as he balanced its weight on his left knee. However, while he avoided falling down, he was unable to recover in time to lean into the next right-hander, Checa having no choice but to run off the circuit instead.

His demise left Corser back in front, the former champion enjoying his stint on the much-improved BMW to hold station for the next two laps until Haslam dipped beneath him under braking for turn one.

From here, Haslam proceeded to dictate the pace, allowing the lead group to expand to ten riders, with Corser, Biaggi, Toseland and Camier - the latter pair up at the front after aggressive first laps - all keeping a particularly close watching brief from second to fifth.

However, five was about to become four when Camier crashed out of contention in dramatic fashion on lap eight, the reigning British Superbike Championship dropping the Aprilia at high-speed on the way into turn seven and very nearly skittling the riders in front of him as the bike bounced across the circuit. Luckily, Camier emerged unharmed, although his error did also cost the close following Sylvain Guintoli, who ran off the circuit with him and dropped to the bottom end of the top fifteen.

Camier wasn't the only rider to be left propping up the retirements' list either, with Michel Fabrizio and Shane Byrne both tumbling out prior to Camier to deplete the field further.

Camier accident and Guintoli's delay meant the battle for victory looked to come down to Haslam, Corser, Toseland - who pulled off a fine move on Biaggi for third on lap seven - and Biaggi, the quartet now with a good margin back to the second group of Jonathan Rea, Crutchlow and Noriyuki Haga.

Indeed, Toseland appeared to be the man on the move as replicated his Biaggi pass on Corser to slip up to second position on lap ten. Biaggi quickly capitalised himself to get past the BMW shortly afterwards.

However, while Toseland's charge to the front had now left him with just one rider to overhaul, it soon became apparent the Yamaha was not proving quite as consistently competitive as the race wore on.

Initially rallying to close the gap on Haslam in front, Toseland instead slipped into the clutches of Biaggi again, who proceeded to put intense pressure on the former champion over the ensuing laps.

The Italian even briefly retook the position on lap 14, only to run wide and allow Toseland back ahead. Putting up a stern defence of the position, Toseland was eventually forced to concede with four laps remaining when Biaggi got a run on him down the home straight and into turn one.

As if to show was may have been had he made his earlier pass stick, Biaggi quickly broke down Haslam's lead, which had stood at more than three seconds at its peak, to reduce it to less than two in just a couple of laps.

However, it was nowhere near enough for him to launch any kind of assault as Haslam celebrated across the line for his second career victory, a win that sees him increase his lead in the standings to 21 points over Biaggi.

Behind Biaggi, who lamented the lack of overtaking opportunities around the Spanish circuit, Toseland was an emotional third, the result going a long way to putting two difficult seasons of MotoGP behind him.

The battle for fourth went to the finish line as Corser kept a charging Haga at bay, the Japanese rider looking like the fastest man out there over the final few laps as he caught his fellow veteran.

Despite his efforts though, he couldn't out-fox his rival, Corser making the most of a visibly more competitive bike to complete BMW's best ever WSBK result in fourth.

Having spent much of the race attempting to get past Crutchlow and then Rea, Haga had to settle for fifth in what was a difficult race all round for Ducati, while Rea and Crutchlow 'enjoyed' fairly uneventful runs to sixth and seventh respectively.

Even further back, Lorenzo Lanzi scored his best DFX Ducati result in eighth, while Guintoli put on a marvellous fight back to finish ninth following his earlier delay.

Jakub Smrz was tenth, denying what would have Tom Sykes' first top ten result for Kawasaki, the Briton nonetheless doing well to end up 11th having started 18th.

Ruben Xaus, Max Neukirchner, Luca Scassa and Andrew Pitt were the remaining point scorers.