Aprilia factory rider Eugene Laverty took his second World Superbike double in Round 11 of the 2013 series at Istanbul Park on Sunday, narrowing the gap to championship leader Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) - who notched up a third and a second in the day's two premier-class races - to 26 points.
Laverty's team mate Sylvain Guintoli and BMW star Marco Melandri shared the remaining podium spots on a day of mixed fortunes for the South African contingent.
The star of the day, however, was local hero Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki), who thrilled his home fans by edging Sam Lowes (Yamaha) on the line for the win at his home race at the finish line, to win his WSS home race. Lowes, on the other hand, left Turkey just two points away from clinching his first World Supersport title.
Eugene Laverty is obviously not a morning person; his win in Race 1 was the first of the season; his previous four wins were all in the afternoon!
Aprilia's resident Irishman passed Sykes for the lead on lap 13 and eked out a tenuous lead, tenth by tenth, while Sykes fell back into hthe clutches of Melandri, who demoted him to third three laps later.
Melandri had done well to recover from a dreadful Superpole result that saw him start from the third row of the grid, but by then it was too late to try to reel in Laverty's Aprilia, and that was how they finished - after Sykes had held off a determined late charge from Sylvain Guintoli on the second factory Aprilia.
Davide Giugliano, on a privateer Aprilia, took fifth by a nail's breadth after a race-long battle with similarly-mounted Toni Elias came down to a collision coming out of the final corner, which both were lucky to survive. Then, moments later the same thing happened between Honda team mates Leon Haslam and Michel Fabrizio, with Haslam (just) ahead when it counted.
1 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) - 34min57.650
2 Marco Melandri (BMW) +2.009sec
3 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +3.432
4 SylvainGuintoli (Aprilia) +3.919
5 Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) +15.830
6 Toni Elias (Aprilia) +15.945
7 Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) +16.921
8 Chaz Davies (BMW) +21.491
9 Leon Haslam (Honda) +40.186
10 Michel Fabrizio (Honda) +40.218
Laverty started his charge on early leader Sykes from the turn of the lights and, after spending half the race chasing his rival, closed the gap and overtook the works Kawasaki in Turn 14 on the 12th lap. Sykes did all he could to get back on terms but Laverty was able to maintain a crucial one-second gap all the way to the flag.
Guintoli crossed the line a lonely third, never having been in contention for the win, while Melandri finish after a challenging ride in which he made his way past Elias, team mate Chaz Davies and Giugliano, who finished fifth, sixth and ninth respectively.
Giugliano got a great start but lost ground as the race progressed to end up behind Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) and Haslam, while the absence of works rider Ayrton Badovini from the grid resulted in the first-ever World Superbike race with no Ducati machines on track.
Eugene Laverty: "My previous double was at Monza in 2011, but this one has a special meaning because it was totally unexpected. My bike was perfect, even better in the second race - despite the similar pace- as I could make the difference in the final stages. I'm back into contention for the title, but most of all I've regained confidence."
Tom Sykes: "Two podiums today even though it was the first time for me here. We made two or three changes to the bike between races and I think everybody saw that our bike was working a bit better in the second one. We started that race quite strongly and I was able to lead again but some of our competitors were using the tyres a little bit better. Unfortunately I did not have the package at the end of the second race to fight back and try to win it."
1 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) - 34min58.775
2 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +1.708sec
3 SylvainGuintoli (Aprilia) +4.052
4 Marco Melandri (BMW) +10.860
5 Toni Elias (Aprilia) +12.171
6 Chaz Davies (BMW) +12.396
7 Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) +17.434
8 Leon Haslam (Honda) +17.683
9 Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) +25.770
10 Michel Fabrizio (Honda) +38.735
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AFTER 11 OF 14 ROUNDS
1 Tom Sykes - 323 points
2 Sylvain Guintoli - 315
3 Eugene Laverty - 297
4 Marco Melandri - 290
5 Chaz Davies - 239
6 Lorenzo Baz - 180
7 Jonathan Rea - 176
8 Michel Fabrizio - 168
9 Jules Cluzel - 141
10 Davide Giugliano - 139
Sofuoglu and Lowes, who'd been battling heat-to-head for line honours in almost every round contested so far, gave vocal Turkish crowd something to shout about when after swopping positions countless times, the local hero took the win in first ever home race by just four hundreds of a second.
That left Lowes leading the World Supersport standings by 49 points from Sofuoglu with only two races remaining. Michael van der Mark (Honda Supersport), stayed in touch with the leaders in the early stages of the race but later fell back to finish third ahead of team mate Lorenzo Zanetti.
Veteran Roberto Rolfo (MV Agusta) made an outstanding recovery from 14th on the grid to finish fifth, followed by Roberto Tamburini (Honda), Kevin Coghlan (Kawasaki) and David Salom (Kawasaki).
Top South African finisher was Ronan Quarmby (Honda), in a very creditable 10th, with Mathew Scholtz (Suzuki) 17th and David McFadden a battling 24th in a difficult first outing on the PTR Honda.
Sheridan Morais, who had been thrilled to be back on a Kawasaki after a difficult season on the Honda, went out on lap nine with mechanical gremlins while running 21st.
1 Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) - 31min59.707
2 Sam Lowes (Yamaha) +0.040
3.Michael van der Mark (Honda) +9.074
4 Lorenzo Zanetti (Honda) +11.987
5 Roberto Rolfo (MV Agusta) +12.696
6 Roberto Tamburini (Honda) +12.936
7 Kevin Coghlan (Kawasaki) +14.002
8 David Salom (Kawasaki) +14.855
9 Jack Kennedy (Honda) +19.952
10 Ronan Quarmby (Honda) +20.429
17 Mathew Scholtz (Suzuki) +33.143
24 David McFadden (Honda) +1min16.720
Sheridan Morais (Honda) - DNF