Kawasaki star Tom Sykes and Aprilia's Eugene Laverty shared the wins in a dramatic weekend at the Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey, California, with Race 1 red-flagged twice as hot-shot local wild cards ran out of talent.
The Saturday race was eventually run over just 12 laps, rather than the scheduled 28 after wild-card entry Danny Eslick, riding one of Michael Jordan's Suzuki GSX-R1000's, crashed out on lap seven, bringing out the red flags, and his team mate Roger Hayden, younger brother of Ducati MotoGP rider Nicky, took a huge tumble nine laps into the restart, interrupting proceedings for a second time.
In both cases Aprilia star Sylvain Guintoli had been leading from Superpole winner Sykes and BMW works rider Chaz Davies when racing was halted, but it was Davies who grabbed the hole shot at the third start, from his team mate Marco Melandri, Guintoli, Sykes and Aprilia team leader Eugene Laverty.
Sykes, however, almost immediately went on the charge, demoting Laverty to fifth on lap two, passing Guintoli for third the next time around and moving up to second at the expense of Melandri on lap seven.
Three laps from the flag he and Davies came down the infamous Corkscrew side by side, with Sykes diving into Turn 11 in a very brave pass, and then smoothly holding off Davies to win by a quarter of a second.
Melandri lost some ground after trying to pass his team mate Davies at Turn 5 and then, on the final lap, lost third courtesy of a superb pass by Laverty at the Corkscrew.
Laverty's team mate Guintoli ended up fifth, a frustrating result for the Frenchman who'd been comfortably in the lead each time the red flags came out.
Tom Sykes: "It was hard having three starts but it ended up good for us with a race win. Sylvain and I came together at the entry to Turn 1 off the start and that pushed my brake lever down from its normal position, which was a bit awkward until I got used to it. I had to push to stay with the BMW guys up front, but in the end it was a win for us."
1 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R - 16min55.703
2 Chaz Davies (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +1.253sec
3 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +2.454
4 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +2.650
5 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +3.430
6 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +3.584
7 Jules Cluzel (France) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +9.134
8 Toni Elias (Spain) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +11.252
9 Ayrton Badovini (Italy) Ducati Panigale 1199R +14.140
10 Mark Aitcheson (Australia) Kawasaki ZX-10R +17.830
11 David Salom (Spain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +18.010
12 Blake Young (United States) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +21.767
13 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +22.087
14 Federico Sandi (Italy) Kawasaki ZX-10R +32.837
15 Vittorio Iannuzzo (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +34.267
16 Glen Allerton (Australia) BMW S1000 RR +50.167
Laverty took the Sunday race in spectacular fashion, passing Aprilia privateer Davide Giugliano at Turn 5 with three laps to go and then making the exact same move on Sykes the next time around, finally breaking the Kawasaki rider's race-long grip on the lead.
Sykes tried everything he could to defend his position under braking, but once he lost the lead he was passed by both Giugliano and Melandri, finally coming home fourth, a quarter of a second behind Melendri, while Giugliano gave it everything he had to tray to snatch his first World Superbike, missing out by a heart-breaking 0.112sec.
Guintoli was never in contention the win, but stayed in touch with the leading pack to come home fifth and salvage crucial points from a difficult weekend.
It was a disappointing race for Team Ducati, as both Niccolo Canepa, who was running fourth, and team mate Ayrton Badovini crashed out, although Canepa bravely rejopined and soldiered on to finish 15th, more than a minute down on the leaders, and take home a single point.
Sykes finished the day with a 23 point advantage over Laverty, who moved to second in the standings, one point ahead of team mate Guintoli, with Melandri fourth, 42 points down from the lead.
1 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 36min44.555
2 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +0.112sec
3 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +2.051
4 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +2.304
5 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +2.959
6 Jules Cluzel (France) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +10.187
7 Toni Elias (Spain) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +17.789
8 Roger Hayden (United States) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +20.602
9 David Salom (Spain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +22.055
10 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +23.472
11 Leon Haslam (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +24.118
12 Blake Young (United States) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +29.863
13 Mark Aitcheson (Australia) Kawasaki ZX-10R +32.565
14 Danny Eslick (United States) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +51.777
15 Niccolo Canepa (Italy) Ducati Panigale 1199R +1min05.824
16 Vittorio Iannuzzo (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +1min23.892
17 Glen Allerton (Australia) BMW S1000 RR +1 lap
POINTS (after 12 of 14 rounds)
1 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R - 361
2 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 338
3 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 337
4 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR - 319
5 Chaz Davies (Britain) BMW S1000 RR - 259
6 Loris Baz (France) Kawasaki ZX-10R - 180
7 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 177
8 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR - 176
9 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 169
10 Jules Cluzel (France) Suzuki GSX-R1000 - 160