3 November 2002
Magic Melandri makes it nine out of sixteen.
Marco Melandri cruised to his ninth 250cc GP victory of the season in his final ride in the quarter litre category today at Valencia, while battle of the race was between Gresini team-mate Rolfo and home hero Alzamora for second.
Yesterday, new 250cc World Champion Melandri had held on to pole position, despite not improving on his Friday provisional pole time and would start today's season finale alongside Randy de Puniet, Sebastian Porto and home hero Emilio Alzamora on the front row.
Telefonica team-mates Nieto and Elias were left min sixth and eighth respectively and eager to perform much better than that today in front of their fanatical home crowd.
When the lights disappeared it was the new World Champion that led the way into turn one, ahead of Elias, a fast starting Nieto, Porto, Debon, Rolfo and his team-mate local hero Alzamora.
So, with two Spaniard's immediately behind the Italian it looked as though the MS Aprilia star would face some serious opposition in his final 250cc Grand Prix before a move to MotoGP – almost certainly on a Yamaha - next year. However, taking no further part would be Rio winner Sebastian Porto, whose Yamaha ground to a halt on lap 2, while the Gresini Honda's closed in on the top three as they chased the first Honda quarter litre victory of the year.
Within four laps, Nieto was ahead of Elias, but by that time Melandri had a 2.4secs lead – and it was about to become bigger as Fonsi's front wheel folded on the entry to a left hander, sending him spiralling into the gravel and out of his home race.
By the midway stage of the 27lap race Melandri had pulled out a 5.5secs lead over Elias, with Rolfo a further 2.3secs behind and still battling with his team-mate Alzamora, with de Puniet a further 5secs back in fifth.
Lap 19 and the Gresini Hondas had pushed themselves up on to the tail of second placed Elias to create a three way fight. Rolfo didn't hang around in trying to pass the Motegi winner and soon outbraked the strangely slow Aprilia – with his team-mate following suit soon after. But despite the Fortuna machines doing all they could, neither could make any impact on Melandri's now 8secs lead – while Elias slipped further and further behind.
Onto the last lap and the eye catching battle was between Rolfo and Alzamora for second – as the Spaniard desperately tried to prize his way past the Italian to the cheers of the partisan crowd. The two traded positions but despite his best efforts Rolfo held a tight line into the final turn to keep his advantage at the line.
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