The 2012 World Superbike Championship is still very much in doubt after the first of two races in the season finale at Magny Cours in France with Max Biaggi crashing out of the race, held in wet conditions, while his rivals for the title finished second and third.
The race was won by PATA Racing Ducati's Sylvain Guintoli, the Frenchman beating BMW's Marco Melandri to the finish line by 6.12 seconds in his home race with Kawasaki's Tom Sykes third, another 10 seconds behind the Italian. With Biaggi failing to score a point, Sykes is now 14.5 points behind Biaggi with Melandri 18.5 points in arrears.
Red Devils Roma Ducati's Maxime Berger made it an even better day for the French as he had his best finish of the season to finish fourth in what was a race of attrition, the Frenchman some four seconds ahead of BMW's Leon Haslam.
Ayrton Badovini rode his BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet S1000 RR to sixth, just ahead of Biaggi's Aprilia teammate Eugene Laverty. Althea Ducati's Davide Giugliano ended up eight with Claudio Corti and Loris Baz rounding out the top 10.
The list of those crashing was impressive: Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa, ParkinGo Aprilia's Chaz Davies, Fixi Crescent Suzuki's Leon Camier, Honda's Jonathan Rea and, most notably, Biaggi.
Sykes led the race early and again late, with Rea and leading eight laps in between, but it was Guintoli taking over at the front on the laps that mattered most - laps 16 to 23, ultimately matching Sykes with laps led at eight.
1. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
2. Marco Melandri (BMW)
3 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4. Maxime Berger (Ducati)
5. Leon Haslam (BMW)
6. Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
7. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
8. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
9. Claudio Corti (Kawasaki)
10. Loris Baz (Kawasaki)