Arnaud Vincent has become the first Frenchman to win the 125cc World Championship after finishing runner-up to home hero Dani Pedrosa in today's Valencia Grand Prix.

Yesterday, Pedrosa took a popular home pole position for the season ending Valencia Grand Prix, but all eyes were on the title battle where Poggiali took the early advantage Poggiali over point's leader Arnaud Vincent - whom he needed to beat by more than 8 points today to take the title.

The on-form Pedrosa, certain to take third in the championship regardless of where he finished today, was also a factor for the championship in the sense that Poggiali needed the Honda rider (or anyone else) between himself and Vincent (should the #1 Gilera win) to take the world crown.

However, Pedrosa was expected to show no loyalty to either championship contender, with both on rival machinery, and to go all out for victory...

When the red lights went out and the 38 rider field charged into turn one for the first of 25 times, Vincent got the start of his dreams and led the way from Nieto, Pedrosa, Barbera and Poggiali - sending the excitable crowd to their feet already.

Vincent immediately set off like a rocket - with Pedrosa, the pace setter all weekend, right on his case and the pair soon began to break away, to hold a 1.5secs over third by the end of lap two.

Despite Pedrosa's obvious pace and desire, Vincent wasn't going to let him through and despite Dani pulling alongside the Imola Aprilia on several occasions; Vincent simply let off the brakes and held the lead. But he couldn't do that for ever and the persistence of Pedrosa paid off on lap 4 when he finally made a move stick and sent the partisan crowd wild.

Meanwhile, further back on the track - or more precisely off it - Nobby Ueda, who'd announced his retirement late last night, saw his long career came to a sad end when he crashed with Simoncelli, forcing both out of the race and meaning the ever smiling, bespectacled, GP winning veteran was left to walk away from Grand Prix racing with the aid of marshal's.

While he did so, Poggiali was on the move and soon up to fourth (ahead of Nieto). However, seeing the world championship disappearing in to the distance, the San Marinese was looking understandably impatient to get on terms with the top two.

Unfortunately for him, his eagerness to catch the top would cost him dearly when he ran wide at the fast turn one after out braking himself. Poggi was lucky not to run into the gravel, but despite staying on two wheels he dropped back to tenth - 5secs and 8 places behind Vincent. Could he come back..?

By the halfway mark the answer appeared to be no, with 'The Pog' 10secs behind the leading pair - and dropping back - despite having clawed his way up to eighth. The Gilera star still needed to make up another 3secs to catch the 5 way fight for third between (respectively) Barbera, Jenkner, de Angelis, Borsoi and Nieto, even before he could think about the top two. They themselves were still swapping places for the final GP lead, but Vincent needed to make sure he didn't tangle with the home hero or his massive lead over Poggiali would count for nothing...

By lap 20, with Poggiali having made little impression on those ahead, the championship looked decided - baring disaster for Vincent - and the attention turned more to who would take the final victory of the 2002 season, with Vincent looking menacing behind the home hero.

Onto the last lap and Pedrosa held the lead by just 0.1secs from Vincent, with Nieto leading the now three way fight for third between himself, de Angelis and Jenkner, while a subdued Poggiali sat in a distant seventh, 10secs behind the lead battle.

Pedrosa was hanging on tooth and nail for his third ever GP victory - but Vincent wasn't going to let him have it and with the crowd on their feet and screaming their support for 'Dani', he obliged by wringing every ounce of power from his factory Honda and just held on to take victory - but the championship was Vincent's and he stopped just after the line to be mobbed by his delighted - and relieved - team.

Nieto went on to capture third position to give the Spanish fans two local riders to cheer on the podium - while fellow Aprilia and Frenchman Regis Laconi added his congratulations to the ecstatic flag waving Vincent - who later had his trademark 'Rabbit ears' attached to his helmet before donning his T-Shirt and mounting the podium, where he emotionally broke down on the top step as he punched the air with delight.

"It is the most beautiful day of my life," said the visibly emotional Vincent in the post race press conference after sealing the world crown by 19 points. "I've been dreaming of this day all my life. I want to thank all my friends, family and sponsors who have backed me from the start of my career - with whatever they could. Thanks to my team for having faith in me - thank you everyone!"

"It's been a great day for me in front of my home crowd, family and friends," stated race winner Pedrosa. "This victory makes up for me not winning at Barcelona earlier in the year."

Nieto, having taken the final podium place, added: "It was a very hard race - Dani and Vincent were very fast early on and I couldn't stay with them. But I'm very happy to be on the podium at my home race."

Full results to follow...

1. Pedrosa
2. Vincent
3. Nieto
4. de Angelis
5. Jenkner
6. Barbera
7. Poggiali
8. Cecchinello


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