Carlos Checa closed the gap on championship leader Max Biaggi with a superbly taken victory in race one at Imola. The Spaniard shadowed polesitter Tom Sykes for the first half of the race before galloping clear in the second as the Kawasaki faded.
Sykes nailed the start as Checa and Biaggi stormed past Sylvain Guintoli. The Frenchman came under pressure again at the start of the second lap as Leon Haslam set his sights on fourth. The BMW ride left his braking far too late and ran them both off the track with Guintoli unseated from his Ducati on the way back on. The bike made contact with the luckless John Hopkins further back, dropping him to the tail of the field while Guintoli was out altogether.
Sykes and Checa were a class above the rest of the field as Biaggi held a lonely third ahead of Haslam, Jonathan Rea and Lorenzo Zanetti. Checa kept his cool until midway through lap 12 when he scythed past Sykes at Aqua Minerale. The Briton had no answer as the Althea Ducati got stronger and stronger, forcing him to settle for second.
Attention now shifted to the fight for third as Haslam closed in on Biaggi at a rapid rate. The BMW was lapping quicker even than the leaders and on lap 17, Leon made his move at Tamburello. As with his move on Guintoli earlier, he couldn't slow the bike down and Biaggi sneaked back through but this time, Haslam was well placed to make the move stick when they arrived at Villeneuve.
Haslam held on to third despite a late fightback from Biaggi while Eugene Laverty took a solid fifth in the second factory Aprilia. Marco Melandri had an eventful race after outbraking himself at the Variante Bassa on lap two, falling down the field, but the Italian recovered brilliantly to grab sixth ahead of Joan Lascorz and Lorenzo Zanetti who took advantage of a suffering Rea. The Honda ran as high as fourth but lost pace late on.
John Hopkins managed to salvage some points for 13th but his teammate Leon Camier couldn't join him after a crash on the first lap. Chaz Davies also appeared to be involved and retired in the early laps.