Sykes, Melandri share WSBK wins
Laguna Seca, California - Under a scorching Monterey sun Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team) took the first race to bring his career tally up to 16, equalling those of stars such as Giancarlo Falappa, Neil Hodgson and James Toseland.
In Race 2 it looked as if he had the double in the bag, only to crash out of the lead at the very last corner of a chaotic race that was red-flagged and restarted twice.
South Africa's Sheridan Morais battled home 20th and last in the first race, but put the experience to good use, improving to 13th in the fragmented second outing.
Championship leader Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) took the lead off pole ahead of the Aprilia works duo, but dropped to third when he misjudged the infamous Corkscrew at the end of lap one and both Melandri and Sylvain Guintoli dived past.
Chaz Davies (Ducati) crashed spectacularly out of fourth on lap two as the leading three began to edge away from fast starting Leon Haslam (Honda) who was promoted to fourth by Davies' departure.
The tense battle at the front intensified in the closing stages as Guintoli tried to put pressure on his Italian team-mate, with Sykes watching the action unfold in front of him.
But Melandri simply took it up a notch, moving away to take his third win of the season by almost a second.
Davies' works Ducati team-mate Davide Giugliano finished a solid fourth with Toni Elias on a privateer Aprilia and Jonathan Rea on the lead Honda completing the top six.
Kawasaki's rising star David Salom came home 10th to take the Evo honours ahead of Niccolò Canepa (Ducati) and Sylvain Barrier (BMW).
Leon Camier (MV Agusta) was classified 15th and took the final championship point on his debut for the Italian team.
Sykes Once again grabbed the hole-shot into Turn 1, followed by Guintoli, Melandri and fast starting Eugene Laverty (Suzuki). Guintoli immediately began pushing and took the lead under braking into Turn 6 on lap five - only to lose it within seconds as Sykes struck back
Melandri also seized the moment to move into third, with the battle at the front becoming a six-way shoot-out as Giugliano and Aprilia privateer Toni Elias joined in.
Lap 11 saw the red flags come out for a spectacular tumbl by Alex Lowes (Suzuki) at the Corkscrew, which he was fortunate to walk away from.
When the race resumed the action was fast and furious but after only one completed lap the red flags were out again as Barrier crashed out on the main straight and was taken to hospital with a dislocated and fractured left subtalar joint.
At the third stasrt, it all came down to seven furious laps, with Sykes taking the win ahead of Guintoli and Rea, after Melandri crashed out of the lead, followed a shortly afterwards by Giugliano who'd been charging through the field.
Laverty, Elias and Loris Baz (Kawasaki) rounded out the top six, while Salom topped the Evo class again, after finishing a creditable eighth overall.
Tom Sykes: "The aim was to win the race. Obviously Race 1 was a big disappointment but we made a number of changes on the bike for Race 2. The bike felt OK, better than in the first race and then with every red flag we added little tweaks."
Syvain Guintoli: "We were looking for some points, but Tom is very strong in a short race such as this one. About the two red flags I thought maybe this is destiny, like it happened last year.
"In the first restart Tom was fast and I just tried to hang on to him, but in a seven lap race is very difficult, I just tried everything but I was never in a position to attack him."
Marco Melandri: "I got a perfect start in Race1, although I was a bit worried because Tom usually tries to pull away in the early stages. When he made a mistake at the Corkscrew I thought, 'This is my chance'. I set my pace and kept focused, trying to avoid any mistake - and it worked!"
"It's a shame about Race 2, at the third restart I made a couple of mistakes changing gear and I thought there was a gearing problem on my bike. I lost my concentration and when I realised it was all OK, I went too hot at the last turn. I'm really sorry for that, because I think the double win was within our reach."