A first-lap error from Chaz Davies at the final Imola’s chicane allowed WorldSBK champion and series leader Jonathan Rea the space he needed to runaway with the first-race win in Italy, crossing the line with a near four-second lead over Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes.

Rea’s eventual margin of victory was 3.755 seconds ever Sykes as he extended his championship points lead to 42 points over Davies.

Aruba Ducati’s Marco Melandri was finally third but came under late pressure from team-mate Davies who had worked his way back up to fourth after re-joining the track in eighth after his error.

Davies had the pace to lap as fast as Rea and closed down Melandri quickly after getting through traffic, but the little Italian upped his game in the final three laps to keep the Welshman at bay, dropping into the 1’46s when he had to.

Xavi Fores (Barni Ducati) had no answer when Davies came past, and took fifth place at the flag, after a lonely last few laps.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba Ducati Junior) was cleanly passed by Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha) for sixth. VDM had been 12th off the line and had to make major early progress to take a top six, and a front row start in race two on Sunday.

Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) was the top Aprilia finisher, in eighth.

Britain’s Leon Haslam (Puccetti Kawasaki) made up places to finish at the head of a three-rider group, in ninth, with the official R1 of Alex Lowes tenth and Toprak Razgatlioglu 11th.

Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was 12th in his comeback race after being in a top-six scrap early doors. Red Bull Honda replacment rider Jason O’Halloran went down in the early laps, falling at Villeneuve.

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