Carlos Checa has stretched his advantage at the top of the World Superbike Championship standings once more after prevailing in a battle with local favourite Max Biaggi.

Having started from second position, the Althea Ducati rider was shuffled down the order during the opening turns, Checa completing the opening lap in fourth place behind the fast-starting Leon Haslam, Biaggi and pole sitter Tom Sykes.

Indeed, Biaggi, nursing an ankle injury following an accident during practice, was making rapid gains early on, passing Haslam on the second lap before immediately building an advantage to those behind him.

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Checa took somewhat longer to work his way past Sykes and Haslam and though the Spaniard was up to second by lap four, he was already more than a second behind Biaggi.

Nonetheless, Checa effortlessly clawed his way into the lead fight, chipping tenths of the gap with every lap to shadow Biaggi as the race reached the mid-way stage.

Checa duly pounced on lap twelve, capitalising on Biaggi running slightly wide at Rio to muscle his way into the lead, the affable Spaniard even raising a hand in apology after the pair came close to making contact.

Biaggi gave chase initially, but a mistake shortly afterwards would give Checa the breathing space he needed to complete a comfortable seventh win in eleven races.

The hobbled Biaggi held on for a brave second place, less than a second behind Checa, a result that also lifts him up to the same position in the overall standings, albeit now 67 points behind the series leader.

A measure of how fast both Checa and Biaggi were lapping, third place Marco Melandri crossed the line some 17 seconds behind after a fighting ride to third position. Indeed, the Yamaha rider enjoyed a fairly quiet ride after Haslam, who had been circulating closely behind him, dramatically crashed out of fourth position on lap ten.

Haslam's misfortune left Eugene Laverty and Sykes to dispute fourth place, the former looking comfortable in the position until the closing stages when a charging Sykes began to apply pressure on the very final lap.

Spurred on by his late race pace, Sykes showed Laverty a nose on the run up to the last corner, prompting the Yamaha man to go defensive into the bend and run wide on the exit. It was a successful tactic, Sykes getting a better drive out of the bend to snatch a well-deserved fourth place in the sprint for the finish line.

Hampered by his 15th place grid position, Leon Camier nonetheless fought his way to a solid sixth place finish, ahead of Sylvain Guintoli and Ayrton Badovini, who notched up another top ten result for BMW Italia. Joan Lascorz and Maxime Berger crossed the line ninth and tenth, the latter cracking the top ten for the first time for Supersonic Ducati

A race of attrition, all 15 finishers scored points, with Ruben Xaus 11th and Barni Ducati wild-cards Matteo Baiocco and Alessandro Polita in 12th and 13th, while Chris Vermeulen scored his first WSBK points since Misano 2010 with a determined ride to 14th. Lorenzo Lanzi picked up the final point in his maiden race with BMW Italia.

As well as Haslam, Michel Fabrizio and Jakub Smrz were others to crash out of the first race, while Troy Corser compounded BMW's awful start to the day when he peeled into the pit lane after just five laps.