Sylvain Guintoli took an emotional victory on home soil in a dramatic first race at Magny Cours. Unthinkably, championship leader Max Biaggi crashed out in the early stages and podium finishes for Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes ensured that all three will head into the final race with a shot at title glory.
The overnight rain can’t have gone down well with the title contenders but Sykes led away from pole position before the drama unfolded on lap three. Running in fourth place, Biaggi lost the front end of his Aprilia under braking for the Adelaide hairpin, destroying his bike in the process. The only saving grace for the Italian was that he escaped uninjured, allowing to return in race two, but the door had been swung wide open for Sykes and Melandri to close the gap.
Sykes looked set to run straight through it before being reeled in by Jonathan Rea with the Ulsterman snatching the lead at the start of lap five. The race fell back into Tom’s lap though just after half distance when Rea joined a list of retirees, which also included Carlos Checa and Leon Camier, by highsiding his Honda exiting the Nurburgring chicane, throwing away a ten second advantage.
The race leader wouldn’t enjoy a comfortable ride home from there though as the fight for second between Guintoli and Melandri zeroed in on him. By the end of lap sixteen, Sykes had been swallowed up and was powerless to prevent the pair from cruising past him, leaving him to bank the sixteen points on offer for third.
Guintoli wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to triumph in front of his home crowd, pulling out a six second lead over Melandri before the chequered flag, but the BMW rider’s remote title chances had suddenly being revitalised with just 18.5 points separating him from the nervous Biaggi heading into the decider later on.
Behind the top three, Maxime Berger finished a career-best fourth on his debut for Red Devils Roma ahead of Leon Haslam and Ayrton Badovini with Eugene Laverty the only Aprilia to reach the end in seventh, unable to take points off his teammate’s title rivals.