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Leandro Mercado is celebrating his first FIM Superstock 1000 Cup victory at the Nurburgring after doggedly battling back against series leader Sylvain Barrier in an exciting last lap exchange.
With only three rounds of the Superstock 1000 series remaining, Barrier – winner of the last four races - came into the German race with a genuine shot at wrapping up the title early over closest rival Niccolo Canepa.
However, despite qualifying on pole position the Frenchman would give himself plenty of work in the opening laps as a poor start and questionable wide line around the first bend left him as low as ninth position at one stage.
Instead it was the riders on the second row that would burst forth into the lead with some-time SSTK rider Matthieu Lussiana nosing his ASPI Kawasaki in front, followed by Pedercini Kawasaki's Mercado and Ondrej Jezek on the SK Energy Panigale.
It wouldn't take long for the regular front runners to move towards the front though, with Mercado and Canepa quickly establishing themselves in the first two positions, with Jeremy Guarnoni and a recovering Barrier chasing them in third and fourth respectively.
With Mercado holding firm in the lead – save for a brief moment when Canepa passed at turn one, only to run wide -, Barrier would begin to make his play for the win, passing Guarnoni on lap five before dispatching of Canepa at on lap seven.
Coming up against a rider that has only ever won two Superstock 1000 podiums, it was expected that Barrier would quickly find his way past the Argentinian. However, Mercado would put up a robust defence of the position, rebuffing Barrier repeatedly to keep himself ahead.
Indeed, even when Barrier did eventually make a move stick into the NGK chicane on lap eight of eleven, Mercado would simply mirror the same pass a lap later to get back in front.
Allowing Mercado ahead into the final lap, a better run into the first turn would see the momentum shift back towards Barrier as he grabbed the lead again, subsequently setting up a showdown that was always going to be decided at the NGK chicane towards the end of the lap.
And so it proved, Barrier attempting to protect the inside line, only for Mercado to make a late dive for the position and slip on through. Though a wobbly exit would allow Barrier a sniff at getting back underneath him into the long final right-hander, Mercado covered his line in time to spear out of the bend and over the chequered flag to victory.
A first win in 20 attempts for Mercado, the result firms his status as Kawasaki's leading rider in the overall standings, the Pedercini rider moving up to third.
Though forced to wait for the title win, with Barrier second and Canepa third, the Frenchman now holds a 40 point advantage over his rival with just 50 points up for grabs at Magny-Cours and Jerez.
Never quite able to get embroiled in the lead fight, Guarnoni would finish in fourth position, ahead of MRS Kawasaki team-mate Romain Lanusse. Jezek faded to sixth, though he fared than early race leader Lussiana, who crashed out of fifth place.
Lorenzo Savadori was seventh across the line, ahead of Fabio Massei, Marco Bussolotti and Greg