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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.