Marco Melandri took his first World Superbike victory at the third attempt in race one at Donington Park. The Italian charged through from ninth on the grid to overhaul long time leader Jakub Smrz with little over a lap to go.
Carlos Checa couldn't keep up his perfect start to the season as he took third, but retains the Championship lead. But the Spaniard will be relieved with a podium finish after a mistake at the old hairpin dropped him to tenth on the first lap.
His troubles had left local favourite Leon Haslam in front ahead of Leon Camier and Noriyuki Haga, but their battle allowed Smrz to sneak into second on lap five. The Czech rider then found a way past Haslam a couple of laps later and immediately began to build up a healthy advantage, which reached 2.6 seconds by lap 14.
By this point Melandri was making progress from his poor grid position and overtook an ailing Camier for third, with Kawasaki's Tom Sykes following him through into fourth. The Yorkshireman’s hopes of a podium finish ended in the gravel trap at the new chicane on lap 18, while Camier slipped back another place to sixth at the expense of a recovering Checa.
Melandri was now reeling in Smrz out in front, and had reduced his comfortable lead to nothing with two laps remaining. As Smrz struggled with a worn rear tyre, the Italian made his move at the chicane and romped clear to win by 2.455 seconds.
Checa's charge back through the field eventually denied Haslam a podium on home ground, as he snatched third just two corners from home. Jonathan Rea also made late progress, as he edged ahead of Haga to take fifth.
Max Biaggi had an error-strewn race and was never in contention for race victory. The World Champion ran wide with regularity as he twice missed the apex at Redgate with failed overtaking moves.
A third mistake proved most costly as he took a trip through the gravel when challenging Haga's Aprilia with four laps to go. He eventually got the better of his Alitalia teammate Camier to take seventh.
Eugene Laverty suffered his second accident in two days as he fell out early on, while the most peculiar incident involved Maxime Berger.
As he rounded the final corner on lap seven, the rear wheel inexplicably fell off the Supersonic Ducati, sending the poor Frenchman into retirement.
Race One Result:
|1||Marco Melandri||Yamaha World Superbike Team||23 Laps||25|
|2||Jakub Smrz||Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing||+2.455||20|
|3||Carlos Checa||Althea Racing||+5.839||16|
|4||Leon Haslam||BMW Motorrad Motorsport||+6.176||13|
|5||Jonathan Rea||Castrol Honda||+9.039||11|
|6||Noriyuki Haga||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||+9.215||10|
|7||Max Biaggi||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||+9.960||9|
|8||Leon Camier||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||+14.860||8|
|9||Troy Corser||BMW Motorrad Motorsport||+14.877||7|
|10||Joan Lascorz||Kawasaki Racing Team||+16.182||6|
|11||Sylvain Guintoli||Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing||+25.820||5|
|12||Ruben Xaus||Castrol Honda||+28.378||4|
|13||Ayrton Badovini||BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team||+31.869||3|
|14||Roberto Rolfo||Team Pedercini||+40.015||2|
|15||Mark Aitchison||Team Pedercini||+1:00.128||1|
|NC||Maxime Berger||Supersonic Racing Team||+6 Laps|
|NC||Tom Sykes||Kawasaki Racing Team||+9 Laps|
|NC||Michel Fabrizio||Team Suzuki Alstare||+18 Laps|
|NC||Eugene Laverty||Yamaha World Superbike Team||+20 Laps|
|NC||Chris Vermeulen||Kawasaki Racing Team||Non Starter|