By Mark Birkett

Last Sunday's Valencia season finale also saw the final 125cc grand prix race, ever.

The class has been ever-present since the inception of the grand prix world championship in 1949. But in 2012 it will be replaced by 250cc -stroke machines and relabelled 'Moto3'.

Over the years the 125cc class has become known for its close racing, and its ability to provide the best young riders with a chance to showcase their talents to the world.

Indeed, most MotoGP riders cut their teeth on the screaming two-stroke machines, most while they were young teenagers. Of the 2011 MotoGP riders, Rossi, Capirossi, Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Bautista all won the 125cc world championship during their ascension to the premier-class.

A somewhat surprising statistic however is that only three men have ever gone on to win the premier-class crown after winning the 125cc world championship - Phil Read, Alex Criville and Valentino Rossi.

The most successful 125cc rider of all time is of course Angel Nieto, who won a staggering seven 125cc world titles, closely followed by Carlo Ubbiali who won six during the 1950s.

Italy and Spain have been the two most successful countries for producing 125cc world champions, with 23 and 15 world titles respectively.

Two more 125cc world champions of note are Jorge Martinez 'Aspar' and Fausto Gresini, who are still prominent in the paddock as MotoGP team leaders.

In fact, last Sunday saw Nico Terol finally crowned world champion riding an 'Aspar Aprilia', after a tense season-long battle with Johann Zarco (Ajo Derbi). His championship victory was assured when Zarco fell during the early stages of the race.

This championship victory seals the Aprilia/Aspar partnership as the dominant force in 125cc racing over the last decade. Terol has announced he will be competing in Moto2 next year for Aspar.

Moto3 will be an interesting prospect on paper, involving four-stroke motorcycles - more in-line with what the factories sell to the public - but also a determined effort to limit costs and ensure a more level playing field in terms of access to machinery.

Let us hope it provides many of the same thrills and exciting racing that the 125cc formula has over the past 63 years.


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