Valentino Rossi gave a classic display of his fighting spirit at Phillip Island on Sunday, when the newly crowned six time MotoGP world champion overcame the after-effects of a huge qualifying fall to charge from twelfth to second.

"That was a very exciting race for me, from start to finish!" smiled Rossi. "Unfortunately I made a small mistake yesterday and I paid a high price for it - both with my starting position and with my body!

"This morning my neck was okay but I had a lot of pain in my head, so I have to say thank you to Dr. Costa and the Clinica Mobile because they gave me a lot of massage and some medicine and I was in better shape for the race."

Starting from the back of the fourth row, Rossi rose to eighth by the end of the opening lap - narrowly missing a collision with Alex de Angelis in the process - and was soon engaged in a thrilling battle for third with fellow Yamaha riders James Toseland and Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi despatched the Spaniard within two laps and got by Toseland soon after but the Briton put up a spirited challenge, wresting third back and hanging on for five more laps until Rossi eventually got the better of him, on lap 13 of 27.

"The first time I passed James I thought I would be able to go but then he passed me back and I realised that his pace was not so bad, and we had a great battle!" recalled Rossi. "He was very strong and difficult to pass but once I did get by I was able to go."

With a podium place secure the eight-time champion could have been forgiven for coasting home, but instead Rossi put everything into bridging a six-second gap to Nicky Hayden. Little-by-little Rossi made up ground on the Repsol Honda rider, snatching second on the very final lap and recording his 14th podium of the season.

"I just kept pushing and gradually Nicky got bigger and bigger," said Valentino, who threw his knee sliders to the thousands of fans gathered under the podiums. "It was fun to keep fighting till the last lap and I am very happy with this second position because it's always a great emotion to be on the podium here.

"Thanks to my team and to Bridgestone, with Casey as strong as he was I think this was the best we could have done today and I really enjoyed the race," he concluded.

2007 world champion Stoner led the race from start to finish, taking the chequered flag at his home race by 6.5secs over the 29-year-old Italian.

Stoner's victory meant that Rossi's five-race run of wins has come to an end, but Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio hailed 'an incredible performance' from his star rider.

"We didn't win but this was another incredible performance from Valentino, demonstrating once again how he never gives up," said Brivio. "The championship is secure, he was starting from the fourth row and the podium would have already been a good achievement but he still pushed at the maximum and was able to come second!

"He wasn't in perfect shape but the Clinica Mobile helped him a lot and he was able to do his best once again. We're racing to have fun now and we had a lot of fun today in a race that was exciting from start to finish," he added.

Rossi now has a two week rest to recover from his Phillip Island injuries before chasing his ninth victory of the season during the penultimate round of the championship at Sepang on October 19.