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Jonathan Rea showed his absence from the podium in Jerez was only a temporary blip as he caught and passed early runaway leader Tom Sykes to take a perfectly calculated World Superbike win at a damp Magny-Cours.

In a similar pattern to several races in 2015, each Kawasaki rider demonstrated clear superiority in either half of the race, Sykes running clear from the early laps to establish a three second lead, only to lose grip and time, with Rea eradicating his advantage and making the winning overtake on lap 17.

There was home delight too as Sylvain Guintoli took full advantage of the adverse conditions to take a comfortable first podium of his title defence in third, a place ahead of the impressive Michael van der Mark, who quickly rose from a 15th place grid slot to the sharp end of the top ten.

Riders began the 19-lap race on full wet tyres after heavy overnight rain left the 4.4 kilometre track damp for the start of race one. Unperturbed by his ninth place starting slot, Sykes made sensational progress from the off to clinch the lead three laps into the penultimate European encounter of the year.

With riders unwilling to push too hard at first as the grip offered in the damp but drying conditions was still somewhat unknown, eight riders circulated at the front, suggesting the Kawasaki team-mates would have more than one another to consider for the victory fight.

Chaz Davies initially led the chasing pack behind but Leon Haslam's aggressive move at the Adelaide hairpin pushed both riders wide, giving Sykes and Rea a two-second cushion by lap five.

By then both Pata Honda riders were in the podium mix with van der Mark appearing to have the pace to pull clear as Leon Camier and Matteo Baiocco also pushed for a top-three spot.

Davies and Haslam's gradual fall through the top six began on lap eight as van der Mark took third, only to briefly lose the rear of his CBR1000RR on the exit of Adelaide, allowing Guintoli through. Somehow the Dutchman stayed on.

Haslam was evidently in trouble as he sought grip, the Englishman dropping back to ninth before pitting for intermediate rubber with seven laps remaining.

It was at this point at the front that Rea began reversing Sykes' advantage. The Englishman's lead had steadily grown to three seconds on lap nine, until Rea began to reel him in, setting a succession of fastest laps on the drying track.

On lap 17 Sykes' lead was gone and although Rea took two attempts at seizing a place that he has occupied so much in 2015 - the first coming after a lunge at Adelaide, the second with a firm but fair move on the entry to 180 - the final result seemed in little doubt, as Rea becomes just the fourth rider in history to surpass the 500 point marker in a single season.

Rea eventually came home 4.7 seconds clear with Guintoli a further ten behind the 2013 champion at the chequered flag. Leon Camier scored a fantastic fifth place, his best result with the MV Agusta team, while Davies salvaged sixth with a late move on Baiocco.

Just behind, Alex Lowes rode to a solid top ten result having fallen heavily out of Superpole on Saturday. The Englishman enjoyed a drama-free race in a lonely ride to eighth, finishing 20 seconds clear of Leandro Mercado in ninth.

Front-row starter Niccolo Canepa was again unable to take advantage of his grid slot as an early scrap with Camier saw him fall through the top-ten.

 

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