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Eugene Laverty has given his World Superbike Championship title hopes a significant boost after a terrific lunge for the lead on the penultimate lap proved enough to not only deny Tom Sykes the double, but unsettle the series leader enough to leave him fourth.

A frenetic end to a race that always seemed destined to build to a thrilling conclusion, Sykes had looked on course for a double victory on American soil - one that would give him a substantial lead in the overall standings - after taking the lead on lap four.

Indeed, though it was Laverty that would get the jump from the lights into the first turn from third on the grid, Sykes would slot up the inside into the final corner four laps in to nose into the lead.

With his closest rival in the overall standings, Sylvain Guintoli, unable to capitalise on his pole position as he slipped into a fifth position he would take to the chequered flag, Sykes stood to gain substantially should he be able to complete a double victory.

However, once in the lead, Sykes would struggle to establish much of an advantage and was soon finding himself under intense pressure from an inspired Davide Giugliano, the Italian producing arguably his strongest performance of the season thus far as he scythed his way from sixth on the grid, passing Chaz Davies (the race one podium winner going on to retire early) and Sylvain Guintoli, before elbowing his way past Melandri and Laverty with aggressive last corner overtakes.

Despite this, an inch-perfect Sykes was able to keep the charging Giugliano behind him, but with their pace dropping, Laverty and Melandri would also haul themselves back in the lead pack as the race entered its latter stages.

With all eyes on Giugliano to see whether he could upstage the title rivals with a late attack, it was Laverty that would deny him the opportunity as he slipped through into second place at turn five with four laps remaining.

Proceeding to latch on the tail of the fading Kawasaki in front of him, Laverty would pull off an identical pass on Sykes with just over a lap to go to retake the lead.

Perhaps more crucially, the overtake was also enough to interrupt Sykes's rhythm, the Kawasaki man swiftly overtaken by Giugliano and then Melandri to leave him off the podium altogether in fourth position.

Not that Laverty could cruise to the chequered flag, Giugliano getting back on his tail as he looked primed for another lunge into the final corner. However, Laverty would protect his line this time, doing just enough to prevent the youngster his first WSBK win.

A seventh WSBK success of the year, with team-mate Guintoli coming home a disappointing fifth, it means Laverty moves up to second position in the overall standings - the first time he has been classified as the top Aprilia rider since the season opener.

Despite losing out in the final laps, Sykes has still extended his lead in the standings to 23 points, albeit over Laverty now, while Guintoli is 24 points adrift. Melandri is 42 points behind with two rounds and four races remaining.

More than twenty seconds further down the road, Jules Cluzel endured a lonely ride to sixth place on the leading Suzuki, ahead of Toni Elias, while Roger Lee Hayden secured a strong eighth position result on the wild-card MJM Suzuki.

Behind them, David Salom picked his way through the mid-pack to finish in ninth, ahead of Pata Honda duo Michel Fabrizio and Leon Haslam, while Blake Young, Mark Aitchison, Danny Eslick and Niccolo Canepa picked up the final points, the latter fighting back after a tumble at turn one early on.


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