Barros beats Rossi in season-closing thriller.
Brazilian maintains Michelin's unbeaten MotoGP run and shatters race record by 65 seconds.
Alex Barros (West Honda Pons RC211V-Michelin) ended the 2002 MotoGP season with a brilliant half-second victory over World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) at Valencia this afternoon. The pair dominated the race from start to finish, thrilling the 120,000 fans and setting a blazing pace that demolished the previous Valencia race record by an astonishing 65 seconds.
Records have been destroyed throughout the inaugural four-stroke-based MotoGP season but today's pace was something very special -- over two seconds a lap quicker than the previous fastest Valencia GP, run two years ago. And all these records have been established by Michelin riders, who have taken victory and fastest laps at every one of the year's 16 races. Not only that, Michelin men have dominated in depth, monopolising the top-three podium at 15 races and taking the top 11 places in the World C hampionship.
"Today's race was very, very fast -- a great way for us to end the season," said Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier. "This is one of the toughest tracks but our top three guys were fast and consistent throughout, and the first non-Michelin rider finished more than a minute behind them. I think our tyres give a really useful advantage in acceleration traction, which, of course, was the main concept of our S4 profile rear that we developed for the high-powered four-strokes. Now we have a nice off-season break -- one day off -- before we commence testing here with Yamaha, then Ducati!"
Barros and Rossi dominated the race from the second lap, pulling well clear of third-finisher Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin). Barros did most of the work out front, Rossi working hard to stay with the Brazilian at one of his least favourite tracks. The Italian got ahead just twice, once when Barros let him through mid-race and once on the final lap, when he sneaked ahead into turn two, only for Barros to shut the door and hold onto first place.
"I pushed hard from the first laps but Valentino came with me," explained Barros after his second win of the year. "So I let him past at one point, just so I could take a look at him. Then I decided I should push harder again, because I didn't want the race to work out like Phillip Island (two weeks ago, where Barros ran wide on the final lap, handing victory to Rossi). When he passed me on the last lap, I braked as late as I dared and was able to retake first and defend my position."
Rossi, winner of 11 races this season, was at least happy to have scored his first podium finish at Valencia. "I tried 110 per cent but Alex was faster today," he admitted. "When I got inside him I had a chance to win, but he braked ten metres later than normal, so he got back in front. Anyway, it's been a fantastic season, we've all worked very hard -- myself, my team, Honda, Michelin, everyone -- and now we must start preparing for a harder battle in 2003."
Pole-sitter Biaggi was unable to reproduce his stunning speed in yesterday's final qualifying session and settled for a lonely ride to third which gave him second overall in the World Championship. "We couldn't do the lap times today and I don't know why," explained the Italian. "The other guys passed me and were immediately half a second faster, so there was nothing I could do. But I'm very happy to have consolidated second overall, that was my main goal here."
Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini RC211V-Michelin) took fourth today, comfortably ahead of Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), to win the MotoGP Rookie of the Year prize. "I couldn't run with the leaders today but I improved my feeling for the RCV," said Kato. Third Japanese Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) finished sixth. Next year MotoGP goes all four-stroke, with Michelin aiming to continue its dominance of the world's premier bike series after another h ectic off-season of development.