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Marco Melandri has taken a dramatic third World Superbike Championship win of the season at the Moscow Raceway after making the most of a late pit stop in worsening weather conditions to deny BMW team-mate Chaz Davies.

A chaotic encounter from start-to-finish, the race began in dry conditions, but intermittent rain five laps in would throw a strategic curve ball into proceedings since only half of the circuit was considered slippery enough for wet tyres.

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Indeed, with the circuit still dry enough in parts to negate any advantage of pitting for wet tyres, much of the race was run with riders struggling for grip in most of the sectors.

Even so, the first race in Russia had thrown up a series of dramatic moments even before the heavens opened, with Carlos Checa crashing out after a tangle with Jules Cluzel on lap one and pole sitter Davide Giugliano sliding off from second on lap two.

Most crucially, however, erstwhile series leader Tom Sykes was also out after suffering technical issues on lap three. Up to fourth from his ninth place starting position, Sykes looked primed for attack when he was forced to pull off just moments before the ZX-10R expired in spectacularly fiery fashion, much to his evident frustration.

With the field already down to just 13 riders after three laps, Davies found himself out front with a comfortable advantage, ahead of team-mate Melandri, while Eugene Laverty, Sylvain Guintoli, Loris Baz and Jonathan Rea disputed third position.

Rain eventually began falling on lap six, but would stay confined to only parts of the circuit, forcing riders to adopt a tentative approach if they didn't want to lose up to a minute in the pit lane changing tyres.

This was of little concern to Davies who was maintaining his advantage back to Melandri, the pair split by around six seconds, while the chasing pack had now dropped to almost twenty seconds adrift.

Indeed, the fight for third would provide much of the entertainment, the riders swapping positions continuously before Laverty eventually squeezed past a gritty Guintoli for third and made a break.

However, Laverty's hopes of making in-roads into the title fight were dealt another huge blow on lap 15 when he barrelled out of the race at turn seven to suffer his fifth DNF of the year. The Irishman was joined trudging through the gravel trap by Leon Haslam, who - having gotten up to fifth place - also crashed out at the same point.

Up front, Davies continued to hold a steady lead but with just five laps of the race remaining, the conditions would worsen very suddenly, sending nearly every rider scuttling for the pit lane to change tyres.

Critically for Davies, his mechanics couldn't get his bike turned around quite as quickly as Melandri's and though the Welshman would exit the pit lane in front, the Italian would take mere corners to wrest the lead from his team-mate.

To his credit, Melandri was evidently more confident on the wet-tyre shod BMW and quickly set about putting a margin between himself and Davies, the 2011 runner-up keeping it neat to the finish line to complete a timely third win of the year that puts him just 32 points behind the overall leaders now.

Though frustrated to miss out on victory given his length of time out front, Davies will be pleased to be back on the podium having struggled for front-running form since his Aragon double wins back in April.

Behind them, the fight for third would come down to an unexpected battle between Rea and Ayrton Badovini, the Italian revelling in the treacherous conditions to haul the Alstare Ducati 1199 Panigale into the mix.

Clawing his way up to third place, though Badovini would lose out to Rea in the pit stops, he would catch and pass him before the chequered flag to secure the Panigale's first WSBK podium result and only the second of his own career.

Rea held on for fourth position, with Michel Fabrizio recovering to fifth place having taken a punt on changing tyres back on lap ten to come on strong in the latter stages.

Opting for caution in the latter stages, Guintoli slipped out of contention but was still able to secure sixth position, sealing enough points to move him back ahead of Sykes at the top of the standings by four points.

Despite receiving a ride-through penalty for remaining on his bike whilst the tyres were being changed, Max Neukirchner was still able to turn in a season's best finish of seventh aboard the MR Racing Ducati.

A podium contender for much of the race, a foolhardy Loris Baz was punished for attempting to remain on track with slick tyres late on, the Frenchman's two lap delay in coming in dropping him back to eighth position in the end.

Pitting on the same lap as Fabrizio, Leon Camier might have turned in a top five finish had he not run off track late on, while team-mate Cluzel may have also finished higher had he not lost more than a minute in his collision with Checa on lap one.

Last across the line, Federico Sandi was nonetheless able to score solid points as the final finisher in 11th.