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Stoner takes first GP victory in 125 finale

2 November 2003

Casey Stoner finally broke his GP duck in the final race of the 2003 season today at Valencia, the Australian teenager calmly surviving a last corner assault by home hero Hector Barbera to sweep to victory.

Qualifying saw Alex de Angelis take his fourth pole of the season as he looked to consolidate the runner-up spot in the World Championship. Local favourites Pablo Nieto and Barbera had both led the session to the delight of the crowd, but dropped to second and fourth respectively after late attempts from de Angelis and Marco Simoncelli, the latter following up his surprise provisional pole with a first ever front row start.

Whilst Barbera had a mathematical chance of dislodging de Angelis from second spot in the championship, his main rivals Andrea Dovizioso and Stefano Perugini would start today's race just behind him on the second row.

When the red lights disappeared it was home hero Barbera who had the crowd on their feet by leading Stoner, Simoncelli, Dovizioso, Bautista, Borsoi, de Angelis, Perugini and Jenkner.

However, the Aspar Aprilia rider's reign would last just one complete circulation before Stoner stuck his LCR machine underneath the man who celebrates his 17th birthday today, shortly before de Angelis, then KTM's Mika Kallio, crashed out.

But having no such problems was Stoner, the young Aussie pulling Barbera and Simoncelli with him as the top three took a 0.7secs advantage over Dovizioso, who in turn had 2secs worth of clear asphalt between himself and the fifth placed battle between Perugini, Bautista and Jenkner, by lap 3.

Barbera hit the front for the second time on lap 4 (of 24) as the leading trio of Aprilias put ever more space between themselves and the Team Scot Honda of Dovizioso. Meanwhile, Dovizioso's team-mate Simone Corsi and Phillip Island winner Andrea Ballerini were eliminated in a nasty collision, the former requiring a stretcher - then ambulance assistance - for apparent leg injuries.

By the midway stage of the race the top three were still trading paint, with Barbera leading Stoner and Simoncelli at that instant, while Dovizioso had now fallen victim to Jenkner and Perugini, but all three were now closing on the lead group.

The lead group would double in size to a clear six-way battle by lap 18, at which point Stoner had returned to the front, from Barbera, Simoncelli, Jenkner (the fastest man on track), Perugini and Dovizioso – and all covered by just 2.5secs.

The #27 LCR rider, desperately chasing his first ever GP victory, would hold the top spot all the way to the penultimate lap – by which time Jenkner and Barbera were battling hard for second, pulling away from fourth placed Simoncelli in the process.

The last lap began with Stoner just 0.279secs clear of Barbera, and the local hero would dive inside for the lead at turn two – but run wide – and allow Casey back ahead.

However, with 120,000 fans urging him on, there was no way Hector would settle for second and it was only a matter of when, not if, he made his move. But with Stoner riding faultlessly, Barbera faced a tough task and with time fast running out he gambled on a gutsy 'around the outside' move on the off-camber run into the final turn.

Barbera ignored the laws of physics to surge ahead, but there was no way he could make the corner and ran wide again – losing both the race to Stoner, and second to Jenkner, as a result.

The normally cool Casey couldn't contain his delight at finally breaking his GP duck and he crossed the line with his fist in the air. It was a 'perfect' win, since he can now take the victory with him all the way to South Africa at the end of April 2004.

Behind the top three, Perugini fell in the closing laps, allowing Simoncelli, de Angelis, Bautista, Nieto and Dovizioso to complete the top eight.

Outside of the finishing order, Valencia saw two 125cc heroes say goodbye to GP racing – local star Emilio Alzamora taking an emotional tribute lap to thank his fans after crossing the line 24th, while Lucio Cecchinello (Stoner's team owner) was left crying for Italy in the pit garage as his LCR team applauded him after finishing ninth on his final race.

Cecchinello would later storm the podium to congratulate Casey – and steal some of his champagne – while injured world champion Dani Pedrosa was also present, to rather bizarrely accept an award for top 125cc privateer!

Meanwhile, despite his fall, de Angelis kept second in the championship over Barbera, who would have kept the position had he not tried to overtake Stoner – but Hector probably wouldn't even be here if he thought that way.

Full results to follow...

1. Stoner
2. Jenkner
3. Barbera
4. Simoncelli
5. de Angelis
6. Bautista
7. Nieto
8. Dovizioso


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