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Jules Cluzel has kick-started his 2016 World Supersport Championship campaign in fine style with a thrilling first win of the season at the Chang International Circuit over a dogged Kenan Sofuoglu and PJ Jacobsen.

The Frenchman started from pole position but led barely more than a lap of the race when long-time front runner Jacobsen ceded his advantage almost in sight of the chequered flag having put in a display of masterful defensive riding almost throughout.

Indeed, the American was the big winner from the start, scything past the front row on the outside from fourth on the grid to get the hole-shot into turn one, ahead of Sofuoglu, who passed Cluzel at turn three, and Randy Krummenacher.

With Cluzel quickly regaining second from Sofuoglu on lap two, the brief t?te-?-t?te had allowed Jacobsen to inch out a two second lead on the Ten Kate Racing Honda, though he would eventually find himself reeled in over the next few laps, the quartet running in tandem at the mid-way point.

Save for a move by Krummenacher on Sofuoglu for third on lap 11 of 18, a blanket of a second would split the four-way train for the coming laps, building up into what would be a breathless final few laps.

With Jacobsen seemingly suffering with grip but Cluzel's MV Agusta lacking the grunt to commit a pass, as well as Krummenacher and Sofuoglu appearing rapid in the fast bends, but less composed under braking, the four ebbed and flowed in close company.

In the end, the first move would come from Cluzel with a towed pass into the tricky turn three hairpin in a well-timed and seemingly definitive move. However, Jacobsen would come straight back at him in the fast turn four left hander to grab the initiative back.

With the MV Agusta seemingly unable to negate the Honda's strengths - despite Jacobsen's time sapping, but inch-perfect backing into the corners -, Jacobsen looked set to have done enough to complete the win on arguably now the slowest bike of the four.

However, having produced a faultless ride from the lights, Jacobsen would let slip a minor error into turn four on the penultimate lap, offering the only invitation Cluzel needed to pounce. With the Frenchman instantly grabbing the advantage, a recovering Jacobsen found himself bashing fairings with Sofuoglu, himself having snatched back third from Krummenacher two laps earlier.

Though Jacobsen survive the first assault, Sofuoglu's renewed attempt on second in the final corner as they started the last lap would prove more conclusive.

Up front Cluzel had done all he needed to escape into the lead, simply requiring to keep it neat around the last lap to complete a satisfying first win of the year and his first since returning from injury. The result also comes after he failed to score in Australia.

Sofuoglu held firm from Jacobsen to also get his season off to a start following his Phillip Island crash, while Krummenacher would be left off 1.2secs from the win - yet off the podium -, albeit still with the championship lead in his back pocket.

As fast as the leaders when lapping in clear air, Kyle Smith had a poor start to blame for him not featuring more prominently. The CIA Insurance Honda rider started sixth but slipped outside the top ten initially, before clawing back to fifth, ahead of Alex Baldolini, who briefly ran at the front early on before dropping to sixth.

Making impressive gains over the weekend, ex-Moto3 rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin took an impressive seventh place finish, while Lorenzo Zanetti brought a largely disappointing weekend to a conclusion with a run from 16th to eighth place.

Gino Rea and Ondrej Jezek completed the top ten, ahead of local favourite Decha Kraisart, with Kevin Wahr - who stalled on the grid -, Glenn Scott, Luke Stapleford and Aiden Wagner completing the points' paying positions.

Elsewhere, there was to be no fairytale result for home hero Ratthapong Wilairot, who suffered a poor start and was clawing back up the order when he crashed at the high-speed turn four and forced him to retire on lap six.

Meanwhile, Phillip Island standouts Christian Gamarino and Federico Caricasulo finished outside the points, the latter doing so after a massive moment that dropped him from the top ten to the back of the field. Kyle Ryde failed to finish with technical issues.



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