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Stoner secures MotoGP title with fifth home win
16 October 2011
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.
Nicky Hayden ran second to Stoner in the early stages, before being shuffled back to sixth by lap ten. The Ducati rider was still in that position when the rain arrived, when he made an ill-fate gamble to pit for his wet weather bike, which cost him a position to fellow American Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).
Hayden would have lost two places - Pramac Ducati's Randy de Puniet also moved ahead when he pitted - had Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista not crashed.
The withdraw of Lorenzo put Bautista - already due to make a MotoGP best start of fourth on the grid - into a front row place. The Spaniard held fifth on lap one, was demoted by Pedrosa, then regained fifth by passing a fading Hayden on lap 10.
Hayden's factory Ducati team-mate Valentino Rossi then became a bigger threat, but the Italian crashed out when he attempted an inside pass on Bautista into the off-camber MG hairpin on lap 14.
Bautista thus looked set for a safe fifth until he was caught out by the rain. Hiroshi Aoyama (Gresini) and Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3) - who had been eighth and ninth - fell on the same lap.
All of which meant that LCR's Toni Elias, Pramac's Loris Capirossi, returning to action after another shoulder dislocation, and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB) were the final finishers in eighth, ninth and tenth. Elias and Capirossi were one lap down, with Abraham - who fell - two laps behind.
Only 14 riders began the race, with Australian Damian Cudlin, due to make his second MotoGP appearance in as many events - this time for Aspar Ducati - joining the Yamahas riders on the sidelines due to injuries from a huge Saturday morning highside.
The penultimate round of the season, the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, takes place next weekend.Australian Grand Prix:
6. de Puniet