Marco Melandri finally wrapped up the 250cc World Championship today at Phillip Island to become the youngest ever quarter litre champion, but it was far from easy for the Italian who clinched the crown by just 0.007secs after 23 hard laps.
Yesterday, Fonsi Nieto had taken his ninth 250cc pole position of the year, but his title charge looks like coming too late with Marco Melandri
lining up second on the grid and in line to take the world crown denied to him one week ago due to engine problems.
Melandri is the only rider currently competing in the 250cc class who has won previously at Phillip Island, having taken victory in the 125cc class in 1999.
Joining the two championship contenders on the front row was the hard racing Sebastian Porto and Friday pace setter Toni Elias, who was in a position to play a team role for Nieto, as he had one week ago, if needed.
Should Nieto, Elias or any other Aprilia rider takes victory it would be the 13th victory of the year for the manufacturer which equals the all-time record for most wins in a season by a manufacturer in the 250cc class, a record currently held jointly by Aprilia (1998) and Honda (1991).
Meanwhile, Leon Haslam's tenth place on the grid is his best ever qualifying result in Grand Prix racing, in what would be his 45th GP start.
When the red lights went out it was Elias who grabbed the initial advantage, from Melandri and Nieto, but the MS Aprilia rider wasn't waiting around and immediately jumped inside the Spaniard at the Honda hairpin to avoid any potential entanglement with team orders from the Telefonica duo.
Melandri then immediately set off to break the pack, putting a 0.3secs gap between him and Elias by the end of the first lap, while home hero Casey Stoner
was working his way up to ninth ahead of Haslam.
Third placed Nieto, realizing what was happening, cut ahead of his team-mate and put the hammer down to try and tag on to the first moving #3 machine. But while one Telefonica was on the attack, Elias was well and truly on the defensive and now being bombarded by Rolfo - who slipped ahead at the MG hairpin – while the battle turned three-way as Porto caught the pair of them.