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Max Biaggi will head into the final round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship needing just two solid finishes to secure his second title after capitalising on Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri's misfortune at Portimao, while Eugene Laverty claimed his first win as an Aprilia rider.
Biaggi began the second encounter with a 14.5 point advantage over race one winner Sykes and 22.5 points over Melandri, but with the latter failing to start after injuring himself in his race one accident and the former retiring with technical issues, Biaggi's run to third place puts him 30.5 points clear with two races and 50 points remaining.
Indeed, the race began in the knowledge that Melandri's title hopes are all but over after he failed to make the start line. Suffering a suspected bruised kidney when he crashed on the opening lap of the first race – where he was subsequently struck by the unsighted Chaz Davies – Melandri's trip to the local hospital meant he would be consigned to another non-score.
Instead, it was Sykes that started as Biaggi's closest rival following his third win of the season in the opening encounter, the Kawasaki rider signalling his intentions of a double victory in race two as he diced with the fast-starting Laverty for the lead during the opening turns.
Laverty held firm to end the first lap in the lead, but while Sykes would be demoted to third by a determined Davies on lap two, he was still running just ahead of Biaggi.
However, having enjoyed fortune in race one when the restart gave him the chance to get back into victory contention, Sykes's luck would run out this time as smoke began billowing from his ailing Kawasaki. Forcing organisers to call him to a stop, while he remains Biaggi's closest title rival with just Magny-Cours to go, the 30.5 gap will be difficult to bridge in one round.
Sykes's demise was swiftly followed by second place Davies crashing out, the Nurburgring winner ending a frustrating day in the gravel trap when he spun off at turn 11.
With Laverty now more than three seconds in the lead and Biaggi up to second place, the race seemed to be going the way of the Aprilia pair, though the Italian opted to favour caution when Jonathan Rea came by him.