Prior to that point, Neukirchner had remained clear of the accidents and incidents behind him and looked set to take a perfect lights-to-flag debut victory.

The Alstare Suzuki rider converted his first pole position into an early race lead, ahead of Ducati riders Troy Bayliss and Lanzi, as a series of separate falls soon eliminated potential rivals Yukio Kagayama, Noriyuki Haga, Ruben Xaus and Michel Fabrizio.

Second on the grid Kagayama, returning to action after breaking his collarbone at round one, fortunately walked away from his accident, while fellow Japanese Haga lost the front of his R1 into turn one just seconds after he had taken fourth position from Xaus. Xaus and Fabrizio also suffered front end falls.

That left Haga's team-mate Troy Corser in fourth, but he was soon under attack from Checa - fastest in second qualifying, but only seventh in Superpole. Carlos overtook the double world champion on lap 10 of 23, then wasted no time in hunting down the two 1098s ahead of him - being cheered all the way by the vocal home crowd.

Bayliss had been unable to match Neukirchner and spent most of the race defending second against former team-mate Lanzi, but Checa blasted past them both within two laps to hold second place with nine to go.

Neukirchner held a decent four-second advantage by that point, but Checa kept his head down and - with Max perhaps a little cautious in the closing stages - was only one-second behind the German as the last lap began, and within striking distance just a few turns later.

Max kept his cool however and Checa's only chance was at the final turn, when the former MotoGP star proved he had no intention of settling for second by launching his Fireblade up the inside for a 'do-or-die' into the tricky off-camber final turn.

Checa made what might have been his victory pass without making contact, and was slightly in front when he lost the front of his CBR1000RR - the rear wheel of which promptly swiped the front wheel of Neukirchner's GSX-R1000.

Both were sent tumbling into the gravel, Checa remounting to finish fifth, but a devastated Neukirchner was trapped momentarily under his bike and never reached the flag.

Out of sight, Lanzi had skillfully overtaken Bayliss for what looked like being the final podium position - which then began first place following the drama ahead.

Lanzi's victory was his third in WSBK, but first since 2005 - the Italian having endured two nightmare seasons with the factory squad prior to joining the satellite RG outfit for 2008.

Troy Corser completed the podium, while the third Alstare Suzuki of Fonsi Nieto - currently second to Bayliss in the world championship standings - survived the chaos ahead to climb from 13th on the grid to fourth position at flag, but he's now slipped to 34 points behind Bayliss in the title fight.

The injured Max Biaggi, who began the race in ninth position, lost out on the chance to capitalise on the incidents ahead after running down an escape road, while holding tenth place, on lap seven - dropping him to the back of the field. The Roman went on to finish out of the points in 16th.

Valencia race one

1. Lanzi
2. Bayliss
3. Corser
4. Nieto
5. Checa
6. Muggeridge
7. Lavilla
8. Laconi
9. Tamada
10. Rolfo
11. Nakano
12. Sofuoglu
13. Holland
14. Smrz
15. Checa
16. Biaggi
17. Badovini
18. Morelli
19. Lozano Ortiz
20. Napoleone