Superpole winner Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) ran at unbeatable pace out front to win the first race of the weekend, shortened to 18 laps because of a red flag incident in the final warm-up lap. He set a new lap record on lap three, just seventh thousandths of a second better than the previous best. This was the first Ducati win at Imola since Carlos Checa did it in 2012.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) was second after some late pressure from Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) did not quite come off, and the Englishman finished third.
A crazy start to the first race, which was commenced without Sylvain Guintoli already after his Superpole crash, saw Dominic Schmitter (Grillini Racing Team Kawasaki) fall and Peter Sebestyen (Team Toth Yamaha) run over him. Neither made the delayed restart.
A fast paced but processional start saw only Sykes overtake Davide Giugliano (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) off the line and into the first chicane.
The top three moved away with consistently stronger pace than the followers could match, but it then developed into a 1-2 fight with Davies keeping Rea a safe distance behind and Sykes dropping back.
The fast-starting Lorenzo Savadori (IodaRacing Team Aprilia) soon dropped his initial pace from the top five, overtaken first by Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), then Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Nicky Hayden (Honda World Superbike Team).
Up front Rea ran wide but did not crash at the Tosa hairpin, on lap 9 of 18. That gave Davies a 4.461 second lead compared to his varying 0.7 seconds advantage. It brought Rea and Sykes together, after Sykes had been dropped to a lonely and unchallenged third place.
Fourth finally was Torres, and Giugliano inherited a fifth place after Camier ran wide and lost time, just keeping ahead of a warring group of riders behind.
Michael van der Mark (Honda World Superbike Team), Savadori, Hayden and Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team Ducati) completed the top ten places. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) was 11th, just ahead of Matteo Baiocco (VFT Racing Ducati), the last rider in the big mid-pack group. Josh Brookes (Milwaukee BMW) was 14th.