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Australian Grand Prix - Preview.

It has been just a few days since Valentino Rossi crossed the line at Motegi to cement his sixth MotoGP world title in the best way possible, but already he is having to get his head down again for the next race in Australia.

With no chance to nurse the hangover from his triumph in Japan, the ever-committed Rossi heads south with an agenda to return to winning ways around a circuit he was once able to call his own.

With an unprecedented five wins stretching between 2001 and 2005, the past two seasons have seen Rossi off the top step of the rostrum, but with the pressure off, he is determined to rectify that fact over the weekend.

One of the most important races on the calendar historically, Phillip Island has hosted the Australian Grand Prix on 14 occasions and is generally regarded as a favourite amongst the riders on the grid.

Defined by its steep gradients and sweeping high-speed layout, Phillip Island's is also notable for proximity to the coast due to its location on an island (hence its name), while the late season slot of the Australian Grand Prix means weather is generally cool and unpredictable.

Nonetheless, despite its unusual position and often unfavourable weather, Phillip Island draws out the fans in their thousands, most recently to cheer on their hero Casey Stoner.

Although the celebrations may be a more muted than usual after seeing Stoner relinquish his title status to his arch-rival, the Ducati rider will be more determined than ever to return to winning ways following something of a barren spell.

The Aussie led home a Ducati 1-2 over team-mate Loris Capirossi last year, but he has his work cut out to prevent a confident Rossi from re-establishing his authority around this circuit.

Their closest challengers are likely to be Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, who both showed flashes of brilliance in Motegi. Lorenzo qualified on pole position, and while he would eventually fade to fourth, it is the latest fillip in an obvious return to confidence for the Yamaha rider.



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