WSB Race One: Melandri wins thrilling first race in Portimão
Marco Melandri took his second win of the year in today's first of two races in a much dryer Portimão.
A good start from Tom Sykes - starting from pole - saw him chased by an initial surge from Eugene Laverty with the pair trading the advantage until his Aprilia expired in a cloud of smoke, ending his race and leaving Melandri to take over the battle with Sykes for the lead.
With Marco Melandri having managed to take the lead moments earlier, an aggresive pass with five laps to go saw Sykes snatch it back from the Italian, BMW Motorrad rider, forcing him onto the kerb and allowing Sylvain Guintoli on the remaining Aprilia to push through into second behind the Kawasaki KRT Brit.
Guintoli soon marched himself into first place with a move on Sykes that also gave a now chasing Melandri the opportunity to sneak into second.
The gap between Sykes in third at the lead two began to widen and with Guintoli and Melandri trading positions over the final two laps it was left to a final dash to the flag to determine the winner - with just seven-thousandths of a second enough to crown Melandri as the victor of race one.
Elsewhere on the grid, Jonathan Rae - who qualified excellently in third - saw technical issues force his Pata-Honda to withdraw mid-race. Leon Camier faired much better with a strong, consistent ride bringing him home a solid, fourth-place finish.
Speaking after the race, an upbeat Sykes spoke about his troubles with traction, "I enjoyed the race but we had some limitations. I'm sure there are one or two changes we can make to give a better race in the next one."
Sylvain Quintoli enjoyed his battle with Tom and Marco, "I feel a little disapointed in losing the win but I feel that this race showed good spirit and I'm happy overall with what was an entertaining ride".
"It was an awesome race at the beginning", offered a naturally, beaming Melandri, "At first, I thought Eugene could go for the win. But at the end I just did my best, lap by lap and Sylvain passed me in a difficult turn. Fortunately I came back for my second win of the season".