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- Tom Sykes battles back from a low of 11th to claim his third WSBK win of the season
- The Kawasaki rider recovers from a terrible win a heart-stopping late battle with Loris Baz
- Baz settles for second having led for much of the race, with Lowes picking up a podium for Suzuki
Tom Sykes has reclaimed the World Superbike Championship lead after producing arguably one of his finest-ever rides to charge back from a low of 11th place to win on home soil at Donington Park.
Starting seventh on the grid, Sykes slipped back on the opening lap after getting baulked by team-mate Loris Baz and suffering with intermittent issues on the bike, the Kawasaki rider down in 11th and more than six seconds adrift off the leaders at one stage.
With Sykes not factoring early on, the lead of the race was fiercely disputed from the off, with Sylvain Guintoli diving into the lead from fifth on the grid at Redgate, fending off team-mate Marco Melandri initially, Baz and Alex Lowes down the Craner Curves.
A series of shuffles of position around the opening lap would eventually see Lowes jostle his way to the front of a WSBK race for the first time in his career, the Suzuki rider leading Baz, Guintoli, Melandri, Leon Haslam and Davide Giugliano over the line, the pole sitter losing ground after a poor start.
An exciting opening few laps, the lead of the race would swap continuously, with Guintoli slipping past Lowes at McLeans again on lap five before Baz jumped ahead at the Old Hairpin having already dispatched of Lowes on the previous lap.
By this stage, the battle for the win looked set to be contested by just five riders – Baz, Lowes, Guintoli, Melandri and Giugliano -, particularly after Eugene Laverty's dismal run of form continued with a crash at McLeans on lap five, the Irishman's exit creating a large gap between the front and chasing packs.
Sykes, meanwhile, was beginning to make progress up the order, showing scintillating pace in clear air but faced with having to climb his way up the order. Undeterred, Sykes would scythe a route to the front of the chasing pack by lap seven, marking his determination with a particularly impressive pass on both Haslam and Chaz Davies into Redgate at the same time, before making a statement by passing erstwhile WSBK leader Jonathan Rea for sixth a few corners later.
Back at the front, Aprilia's challenge appeared to be fading, with a recovering Giugliano passing both Guintoli and Melandri before moving away with Baz and Lowes at the front to create a three-way lead battle.
Indeed, the Ducati rider appeared to be on a charge as he slipped past Lowes on lap ten and immediately set about attempting to pass Baz for the lead. However, having already suffered a moment at the Esses early on in the race, Giugliano would see his race come to an abrupt end at the same bend on lap 14 when he lost the front-end of the 1199 Panigale.
However, far from reducing the front battle to just two riders, Sykes was now looming large behind the leaders, having breezed past both Guintoli and Melandri into fourth place, before jumping to third at the expense of Giugliano.
By now, Baz had broken free from Lowes, who in turn had little answer to Sykes when he cruised up behind him on lap 17 to move into a provisional Kawasaki 1-2.
With momentum on his side, Sykes quickly caught up to the back of Baz and proceeded to place pressure on his team-mate. However, Baz would not be so easily defeated, so when Sykes passed him for the first time at Goddards on lap 20, the youngster simply struck back at the Old Hairpin with a particularly tight move.
Sykes responded again with a pass into the Melbourne hairpin, only for Baz to pull the same Old Hairpin trick again on the following revolution. This time, however, Sykes was ready and simply cut back underneath him to nose in front again.
When Baz proceeded to run too deep into the Melbourne hairpin just a few corners later, Sykes was given the breathing room he needed to contest the final lap unchallenged, completing a 17th career WSBK win that he later described as his best yet.
Baz would be forced to settle for second, but has at least ascended to second in the standings behind Sykes as a result, while Lowes held on for a confidence-building run to another podium in third place.
Seemingly struggling with more tyre issues, Melandri would finish a distant fourth, ahead of Davies, the Welshman bringing some smiles to the Ducati crew after Giugliano's disappointing exit.
Erstwhile championship leader Rea, meanwhile, could only manage sixth after a lacklustre race, while Guintoli would finish down in seventh after suffering an off-track moment at the Esses shortly after being overtaken by Sykes. Behind them, Haslam was a disappointing eighth having started on the front row, ahead of Toni Elias.
In the EVO class, Ayrton Badovini was first across the line in tenth overall, but with the Italian unable to score points for Bimota it was David Salom that would emerge triumphant instead, the Spaniard showing his fighting spirit to overtake Niccolo Canepa on the final corner.
Fabien Foret, Jeremy Guarnoni, Alessandro Andreozzi and Claudio Corti completed the points, while Leon Camier failed to start after hurting his arm in an accident during qualifying yesterday.