Gresini Racing's Michele Pirro paid the perfect tribute to Marco Simoncelli with a superb victory in horrendously difficult conditions at Valencia. The Italian team's lead MotoGP rider was tragically killed two weeks ago and Pirro converted pole position into his maiden Moto2 win, triggering emotional scenes up and down the pitlane.
Teammate Yuki Takahashi started alongside Pirro on the front row and beat him into turn one with Dominique Aegerter and Mika Kallio following him through. With light rain falling, Xavier Simeon and Bradley Smith were also flying on the Tech 3 Mistral 610s and moved into the top five ahead of Pirro.
Unfortunately, Smith's chances of ending the season on a high came crashing down on the second lap with the Briton sliding off at turn two moments after passing Kallio. Smith wasn't alone though as newly crowned champion Stefan Bradl made similar mistake three laps later, bringing his race to an end, while Scott Redding also crashed out on the slippery surface.
After Aegerter had briefly led the way, Takahashi took over at the front with Pirro recovering back up second ahead of Aegerter, Kallio and Simeon with the crashes just behind give the leading group a substantial lead over the rest of the field.
Sadly for Gresini, Takahashi would be next to join the list of fallers with a spectacular highside under braking for turn three, flipping the Japanese rider over the front of the Moriwaki. After initially being taken the medical centre for a check-up, he was happily given the all-clear.
Pirro inherited the lead but the leading group was back up to five thanks to the emergence of Yonny Hernandez. The Colombian had stormed through the pack from 20th on the grid and scythed past Aegerter and Simeon on lap five before turning his attentions to Kallio's second place.
Three laps later, he was through but on lap ten the Finn struck back, only for Aegerter to pass the pair of them but the squabbling over second place was releasing Pirro into a comfortable lead, 2.6 seconds at half distance.
Hernandez had his eyes on victory and soon repassed Aegerter while Kallio drafted past the Technomag Suter into third at the start of lap 14. The Swiss youngster soon started to lose touch with the leading battle and was left to dispute fourth with Simeon.
Hernandez and Kallio fought it out for second but the battle was resolved in the Finn's favour with three laps to go when the Blusens rider outbraked himself into turn 12, re-joining from the gravel down in fourth.
Despite the immense pressure on his shoulders, Pirro cruised home to a sensational victory prompting team manager Fausto Gresini to burst into tears on the pitwall. Kallio came under pressure from Aegerter on the final lap but held on to take second with the Swiss rider claiming his first Moto2 podium in third.
The battle for fourth was chaotic from start to finish with Hernandez and Simeon slipping back into the clutches of the riders behind. In the end, Anthony West emerged in front to take fourth with Kenny Noyes scoring his only points of the year in fifth. Hernandez slipped back to sixth on the final lap while Mike Di Meglio sneaked past Tech 3 teammate Simeon to snatch seventh. Max Neukirchner was ninth with Julian Simon completing the top ten.
The scrap for fourth also involved Alex de Angelis and Andrea Iannone as the pair fought over third in the championship standings. In the end, the two slowed each other down racing each other and Iannone was the higher placed on the two in 11th, narrowly ahead of the JIR rider to pip him in the final reckoning by three points.
After their earlier falls, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding trailed home in 23rd and 30th respectively and will now be looking forward to the test tomorrow where they will get their hands on the 2012 machines for the first time.