Chaz Davies has capped an impressive return from injury to take victory in the Laguna Seca opener for Aruba.it Racing Ducati.
Running a special edition Ducati livery to mark the launch of the 1299 Panigale R, it was feared Davies might miss the Laguna Seca race weekend altogether after his scary crash at Misano when he was accidentally hit by Jonathan Rea after falling in a last-lap battle three weeks ago.
But having sufficiently recovered from a vertebrae fracture and left thumb contusion, Davies powered his way past the two factory Kawasaki riders for a first win since his Imola double in May.
After being handed second place when Rea ran wide at two on lap two, he reeled in pole-sitter Tom Sykes before measuring up a pass for the lead. On lap 11 Davies cut inside Sykes at the top of the corkscrew, a move which pushed Sykes wide and let Rea through for second before holding station at the front.
Despite a spirited chase by Rea, Davies eventually broke the toe to pull out a one second gap on the final two laps for an emotional victory. At the late Nicky Hayden's home round Davies also led the tributes to the Kentucky Kid with a special #69 flag on the cool down lap.
With Rea settling for second, Sykes ended the race a distant third over five seconds back while Marco Melandri claimed a lonely fourth over 17 seconds behind his Aruba.it Racing Ducati team-mate.
Barni Ducati's Xavi Fores claimed the best of the rest for fifth place ahead of MV Agusta's Leon Camier, as Althea BMW's Jordi Torres held off a race-long charge from Michael van der Mark on the Pata Yamaha.
Leandro Mercado on the customer IodaRacing Aprilia beat the factory-assisted Milwaukee Aprilia of Lorenzo Savadori, while Stefan Bradl led the Red Bull Honda charge in 11th.
Full World Superbike race one results at Laguna Seca:
1. Chaz Davies GBR Aruba.it Racing Ducati Panigale R 25 laps
2. Jonathan Rea GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10RR +1.202s
3. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10RR +5.789s
4. Marco Melandri ITA Aruba.it Racing Ducati Panigale R +17.574s
5. Xavi Fores ESP Barni Ducati Panigale R +21.159s
6. Leon Camier GBR MV Agusta RC F4 RR +23.016s
7. Jordi Torres ESP Althea BMW S1000RR +31.986s
8. Michael van der Mark NED PATA Yamaha YZF-R1 +32.933s
9. Leandro Mercado ARG IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 +35.936s
10. Lorenzo Savadori ITA Milwaukee Aprilia RSV4 +36.912s
11. Stefan Bradl GER Red Bull Honda CBR1000RR SP2 +44.961s
12. Roman Ramos ESP Team Go Eleven Kawasaki ZX-10R +45.203s
13. Raffaele De Rosa ITA Althea BMW S1000RR +45.901s
14. Alex de Angelis SMR Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10RR +46.043s
15. Jake Gagne USA Red Bull Honda CBR1000RR SP2 +46.805s
16. Ayrton Badovini ITA Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10RR +54.463s
17. Randy Krummenacher SWI Puccetti Kawasaki ZX-10RR +56.989s
18. Jakub Smrz CZE Guandalini Yamaha YZF-R1 +1m+
19. Ondrej Jezek CZE Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10RR +1m+
Did not finish:
Eugene Laverty IRE Milwaukee Aprilia RSV4
Alex Lowes GBR PATA Yamaha R1