2012 Magny Cours WSBK Race One: Rain Leaves Its Mark
The physical track of Magny Cours was wet for the first World Superbike. Two of the title contenders were at the front, with the third on the third row.
Tom Sykes took the lead from pole position with Jonathan Rea in tow. Max Biaggi clawed his way up to 4th place in the rain while Melandri was bogged down in ninth. Just as predictions pointed to Max BIaggi taking the title in the first race, as Biaggi tried to close down Carlos Checa in 3rd place, he locked the front wheel and had to watch as his bike rolled over several times in the gravel to once again, ending his morning and opening up the title chase once more.
As Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea made a break at the front, Carlos Checa was breaking free of the melee behind him in third, leaving Marco Melandri and Sylvain Guintoli to fight over fourth place. Jonathan Rea passed Tom Sykes for the lead and Carlos Checa closed up to Sykes's rear wheel. With 16 laps left, Checa crashed out, giving Sykes some breathing room, until Sylvain Guintoli started to put in consistent fast laps, bringing Marco Melandri with him to challenge Sykes for second place. Then, to keep the title challenge unpredictable, Jonathan Rea crashed, picked up his bike, crashed again and then rode his battered bike to the pits.
Sykes had empty track ahead of him, and ten laps to go. But behind him was a charging Melandri and a determined Guintoli. Melandri's injury didn't look like it was going to bother him and the championship table visibly tightened. As the front three closed up, with a quarter of a second covering them, places were swapped, with the lead eventually going to Sylvain Guintoli as riders entered corners three abreast.
With seven laps left, Guintoli, Melandri and Sykes settled into their places and as Guintoli was a second a lap faster in front of a jubilant French crowd, and Melandri was a second faster than a careful Sykes, the podium places were settled and everyone waited to see if everyone would make it to the end.
Sylvain Guintoli won his third race of the year, followed by Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes, the three of them clear of Maxime Berger in fourth place on a borrowed bike.
As the French fans cheered along with the Marseillaise, the championship would go down to the last race.