Alex Barros took victory in an epic season ending Valencia Grand Prix, which began with a horrific startline crash involving a stalled Carlos Checa being hit by Jose-Luis Cardoso, and ended with Barros and Valentino Rossi
riding over the edge on their RCV's as they duelled to the final corner of the 2002 season.
Yesterday, Max Biaggi had taken an emotional final pole position of the 2002 season in his last ride for the Marlboro Yamaha team, ahead of non improvers Barros (looking for his fourth successive podium on his fourth RCV ride) and Daijiro Kato
while shock of the session came from the two stroke of Garry McCoy
– winner at Valencia in 2000 - who took a front row start on his YZR500.
Late session crasher Carlos Checa led the second row, ahead of World Champion Rossi, who was left back in sixth – but with no major complaints about his RCV and looking forward to today's race, where he had the opportunity to equal mentor Mick Doohan's all time season win record if he took what would be his twelfth victory of 2002. But the Honda hero has never won in the premier class at the circuit before.
The start of toady's 30 lap race would prove easily the most dramatic of the year as firstly Garry McCoy
jumped the start by a mile from the outside of the front row, then behind him Carlos Checa sat stationary on the grid for the second time this season, after stalling his M1.
The results of this was horrific as Jose Luis Cardoso – who's started from 21st on his d'Antin run Yamaha – hit his countryman square on from behind, launching Cardoso through the air and leaving him slumped against the pit wall with the front of his YZR500 completely destroyed.
Checa, despite being thrown down the road, was able to jump to his feet and over the pitlane wall – while marshals' ran to Cardoso's aid. It looked as though the race would have to be red flagged, but waved yellows slowed the field for their return run past the pits (with Barros leading Biaggi, Rossi, Kato, Nakano, Ukawa and McCoy) and Cardoso was soon stretchered away.
Much to the relief of everyone he signaled with a slow wave of his right hand that he was ok as he was maneuvered into the medical centre. Amazingly – and it was truly amazing given the impact – a smiling Cardoso would later return to the pitlane some 20mins later and watch the remainder of his home Grand Prix apparently unharmed.
Meanwhile, as Cardoso was being examined, Aoki fell from his Proton at turn one and brought the curtain down early on his two-stroke career. But back on track, and with the waved yellows now gone, Barros was leading Rossi by 0.6secs with Biaggi third ahead of Kato, Ukawa (the man Biaggi needed to beat for second in the championship) and Nakano, while McCoy was called in to serve a 5secs stop/go penalty for his jump start.
Lap 6 and local hero Sete Gibernau, winner of last years race, straight lined the fast turn one, sending him into the deep gravel and heading straight for the tyre wall. Fortunately, the Spaniard brought his V4 back under control and paddled back on track to rejoin in 18th on his final ride for the Suzuki team.