to view WSBK Race 1 Results.
The 2012 World Superbike Championship will come down to a final race shootout after Max Biaggi crashed out of contention in the Magny-Cours opener, while Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri slashed his advantage with their respective runs to third and second behind winner Sylvain Guintoli.
A race of high drama befitting of a final round showdown, while the smart money was on Biaggi to inch closer to a second career WSBK title, even from tenth position on the grid, the slippery conditions brought on by earlier rain and cool conditions created a tense setting for himself and rivals Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri.
Indeed, the Italian came into the race commanding a 30.5 point lead, a margin that Sykes understood would require a win to significantly reduce. As such, the pole sitter came out of the blocks fighting, nosing ahead of Jonathan Rea and Carlos Checa through the opening turns.
Biaggi, however, was already picking his way up the order, moving into fourth position when Eugene Laverty allowed him to overtake on lap two.
However, Biaggi's hopes of notching up the solid points he needed to seal the title would hit a hurdle on lap three when his Aprilia folded under braking for the Adelaide hairpin. A costly DNF at this crucial stage in the season, it prompted a flurry of calculations as the 25 points Sykes would gain for victory looked set to reduce the margin to just 5.5 points.
That said, Sykes was not having an easy time up front as Rea continued to harass him for the lead, the Ulsterman's perseverance being rewarded on lap five when he slithered to the front at turn one.
Taking five points off Sykes's precious tally, Rea didn't hang about for a response from the Kawasaki rider as he quickly established a comfortable lead over his countryman. Nonetheless, Sykes did get some fortune on lap eight when the closing Checa crashed out at the long turn three right-hander, the Spaniard joining a retirements' list that would grow steadily over the course of the race.
Indeed, with Chaz Davies and Leon Camier already out by lap ten – the latter taking a substantial hit when he came down heavily at turn one -, the race would claim another high profile victim in race leader Rea on lap twelve, the Honda rider losing the rear-end of his CBR1000RR on the exit of turn seven.