Valencia, Spain - Casey Stoner might have won the 2011 Valencia GP with the champion's crown already on his head but it was the race's first-corner crash that will be remembered for far longer.
Supersmash at Valencia MotoGP
Even Stoner's last-seconds win might fade from memory, but what happened in Turn 1 won't...
With the memory of Marco Simoncelli's track death two weeks earlier hovering over the track near Valencia the pack launched off the grid and into the first corner and the almost unthinkable happened... four bikes went down, domino style, as Alvaro Bautista slid to the right.
He took with him Randy de Puniet (Pramac), Nicky Hayden (Ducati)and, almost unbelievably, Valentino Rossi who was also involved in the crash that took Simoncelli's life and left the motorcycling world in tears.
The crowd, still holding dozens of No.58 placards in the air to commemorate 'Sic', froze as the bikes went down. "Not again!" must have been the first thought as sparks showered across the tar and pieces of high-performance motorcycles skewered through the air.
The four riders rolled and slid into the gravel trap but, almost miraculously, they were all quickly back on their feet and staring in disbelief at the at the pile of wreckage. The race went under yellow flags for several laps while the mess was cleared and Hayden De Puniet, Bautista and a head-shaking Rossi headed back to their garages.
More riders went down after the yellows were furled and the pace picked up again; fine rain was falling - not enough to stop the race but enough to make the tar dangerously greasy.
Then, a few laps from the end, the weather deteriorated quickly and heavier rain sluiced down. Casey Stoner had led from the start after opening a huge lead within minutes of the start but a slide in the wet took it away from him as Ben Spies (Yamaha) went past in a cloud of spray.
Racing for the line, a gutsy Stoner wound the throttle open through the last bend, went past Spies to claim not only the World title but also the last race of the 2011 MotoGP season.
'HEART IN MY THROAT'
It was Stoner’s 10th victory of the season and he had already settled his second MotoGP title at his home event in Australia back in October. For a while, until he eased off, he was running with a 10-second lead here in Valencia.
"My heart was in my throat," Stoner, 26, said later of his last-gasp dash. "I tried to stay with Ben on the final lap and I knew I had a better exit line for the straight so I am very happy.”
Stoner's Italian team mate Andrea Dovizioso was third, which was enough to clinch third place in the championship ahead of Spaniard Dani Pedrosa (Honda).
Spanish Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, the 2010 champion who did not race in Valencia due to a finger injury, was already assured of second in the championship.
1 Casey Stoner (Australia) Honda 48min18.645
2 Ben Spies (US) Yamaha 48min18.660
3 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Honda 48min24.581
4 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha 48min27.363
5 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda 48min27.966
6 Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Japan) Yamaha 48min42.463
7 Josh Hayes (US) Yamaha 48min51.763
8 Karel Abraham (Czech Republic) Ducati 48min56.597
9 Loris Capirossi (Italy) Ducati 49min07.598
10 Toni Elias (Spain) Honda 49min11.146
11 Hector Barbera (Spain) Ducati 49min25.164
12 Hiroshi Aoyama (Japan) Honda 49min27.405
2011 MotoGP standings after the Valencia Grand Prix
1 Casey Stoner (Australia) Honda - 350
2 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha - 260
3 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Honda - 228
4 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda - 219
5 Ben Spies (US) Yamaha 176
6 Marco Simoncelli (Italy) Honda - 139
7 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Ducati - 139
8 Nicky Hayden (US) Ducati - 132
9 Colin Edwards (US) Yamaha - 109
10 Hiroshi Aoyama (Japan) Honda - 98
11 Hector Barbera (Spain) Ducati - 82
12 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha - 70
13 Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Suzuki - 67
14 Karel Abraham (Czech Republic) Ducati - 64
15 Toni Elias (Spain) Honda - 61
Italian rider Michele Pirro on a Moriwaki won the final Moto2 race of the season.
He beat home Suter duo Mika Kallio of Finland and Switzerland's Dominique Aergerter.
2011 Valencia Moto2 result
1 Michele Pirro (Italy) Moriwaki 46min22.205
2 Mika Kallio (Finland) Suter 46min28.355
3 Dominique Aegerter (Switzerland) Suter 46min28.568
4 Anthony West (Australia) MZ-RE Honda 46min31.048
5 Kenny Noyes (US) FTR 46min31.434
6 Yonny Hernandez (Colombia) FTR 46min32.131
7 Mike Di Meglio (France) Tech 3 46min32.320
8 Xavier Simeon (Belgium) Tech 3 46min32.590
9 Max Neukirchner (Germany) MZ-RE Honda 46min35.223
10 Julian Simon (Spain) Suter 46min35.890
11 Andrea Iannone (Italy) Suter 46min36.891
12 Alex de Angelis (San Marino) Motobi 46min37.405
13 Jules Cluzel (France) Suter 46min40.633
14 Pol Espargaro (Spain) FTR 46min41.382
15 Claudio Corti (Italy) Suter 46min42.561
2011 Moto2 standings
1 Stefan Bradl (Germany) Kalex - 274
2 Marc Marquez (Spain) Suter - 251
3 Andrea Iannone (Italy) Suter - 177
4 Alex de Angelis (San Marino) Motobi - 174
5 Thomas Luethi (Switzerland) Suter - 151
6 Simone Corsi (Italy) FTR - 127
7 Bradley Smith (Britain) Tech 3 - 121
8 Dominique Aegerter (Switzerland) Suter - 94
9 Michele Pirro (Italy) Moriwaki - 84
10 Esteve Rabat (Spain) FTR - 79
11 Yuki Takahashi (Japan) Moriwaki - 77
12 Aleix Espargaro (Spain) Pons Kalex - 76
13 Pol Espargaro (Spain) FTR - 75
14 Julian Simon (Spain) Suter - 68
15 Scott Redding (Britain) Suter - 63
2011 Valencia 125cc GP result
1 Maverick Vinales (Spain) Aprilia 41min44.138
2 Nicolas Terol (Spain) Aprilia 41min47.354
3 Hector Faubel (Spain) Aprilia 41min51.598
4 Efren Vazquez (Spain) Derbi 41min58.698
5 Jonas Folger (Germany) Aprilia 42min02.589
6 Alberto Moncayo (Spain) Aprilia 42min20.610
7 Luis Salom (Spain) Aprilia 42min36.752
8 Niklas Ajo (Finland) Aprilia 42min44.276
9 Luigi Morciano (Italy) Aprilia 42min44.391
10 Louis Rossi (France) Aprilia 42min47.396
11 Manuel Tatasciore (Italy) Aprilia 42min54.030
12 Marcel Schroetter (Germany) Mahindra 42min56.879
13 Alessandro Tonucci (Italy) Aprilia 43min02.475
14 John McPhee (Britain) Aprilia 43min02.572
15 Giulian Pedone (Switzerland) Aprilia 43min04.718
2011 Valencia 125cc standings
1 Nicolas Terol (Spain) Aprilia - 302
2 Johann Zarco (France) Derbi - 262
3 Maverick Vinales (Spain) Aprilia - 248
4 Sandro Cortese (Germany) Aprilia - 225
5 Hector Faubel (Spain) Aprilia - 177
6 Jonas Folger (Germany) Aprilia - 161
7 Efren Vazquez (Spain) Derbi - 160
8 Luis Salom (Spain) Aprilia - 116
9 Sergio Gadea (Spain) Aprilia - 103
10 Alberto Moncayo (Spain) Aprilia - 94
11 Danny Kent (Britain) Aprilia - 82
12 Jakub Kornfeil (Czech Republic) - Aprilia 72
13 Adrian Martin (Spain) Aprilia - 45
14 Miguel Oliveira (Portugal) Aprilia - 44
15 Marcel Schroetter (Germany) Mahindra - 36