Casey Stoner won the 2011 MotoGP
World Championship in fairytale style, by taking his fifth consecutive home win - on his 26th birthday - at Philip Island in Australia on Sunday.
Stoner needed to score ten points more than reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo
to clinch the crown and had labelled his home title chances as "almost none" coming into the event.
Lorenzo looked more than capable of a podium finish, but that all changed when Yamaha's 2010 world champion was ruled out of the race due to a finger injury on his left hand in morning warm-up.
That left Stoner needing only a top six finish, a task made even easier when Ben Spies was also ruled out of action a few hours after his team-mate. Spies had struggled for concentration following a knock to the head in a fast Saturday qualifying crash.
As he had threatened to do all weekend, Stoner simply flattened the opposition in the race, making his RC212V dance around the fast seaside circuit.
The only threat to Stoner's victory was the quick-changing Phillip Island weather, with odd spots of rain prompting white flags (meaning bike swaps were now possible) after 10 of the 27 laps.
The spots didn't develop into anything more until just four laps to go - when a heavy downpour arrived at the final turn.
The rest of the track remained dry and most chose to stay on slicks, but it was tense stuff as Stoner rode through the rain to claim his ninth victory of the season by 2.210sec, having surrendered large chunks of his previous lead to battling Italians Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso.
Simoncelli and Dovizioso were already battling before the rain shower, which Dovizioso capitalised upon to retake second. However a last lap lunge by Simoncelli gave the Gresini rider his best ever MotoGP
finish by just 0.244sec over Dovizioso. Sunday marked the second time Simoncelli has stood on a premier-class podium.
Dovizioso's team-mate Dani Pedrosa
had also been a podium contender in the dry, but lost almost ten seconds when the rain arrived, although he was able to comfortably keep fourth.