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Stoner wins home Australian GP

5 October 2008

Casey Stoner ended Valentino Rossi's five-race run of MotoGP victories by winning his home Australian Grand Prix in dominant style, marking the Ducati Marlboro star's first win since the wet German GP in July.

On paper, Stoner's fifth victory of the season was a lights-to-flag affair, but the 2007 world champion was hounded by Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden for the first ten laps around the stunning Phillip Island circuit.

The pair pulled quickly away from a furious fight for third in the process, with Stoner then breaking clear of his future team-mate to hold a two-second advantage by the halfway stage and a 6.5secs lead at the chequered flag - although the Australian's advantage peaked at 7.8secs before he began backing off.

Stoner is now 36 points clear of Dani Pedrosa in the fight for second in the world championship standings with two rounds to go, after the Repsol Honda rider lowsided out of third place at turn two.

Valentino Rossi, who began the race just twelfth on the grid after a high-speed qualifying fall, was only up to ninth by the end of the opening lap - but fortunate to avoid Alex de Angelis, who highsided just in front of him on the entry to the downhill MG hairpin.

Thereafter, the 2008 MotoGP world champion worked his way steadily forwards, overtaking James Toseland for third into turn one on lap eight. Toseland had robustly held onto third ever since Pedrosa's early exit, and wasn't going to give up without a fight - the Tech 3 rookie re-passing Rossi into turn one on the following lap.

Toseland, who celebrated his 28th birthday today, was enjoying the best race of his young MotoGP career - and it took Rossi a further three laps before he could attempt another pass, again into turn one, but this time Toseland sliced straight back under.

Toseland's previous Phillip Island race start ended in victory at the 2007 WSBK event and he kept his MotoGP podium dream alive until lap 13 of 28, when Rossi finally put his factory Yamaha decisively ahead.

A six-second gap separated Rossi and Hayden by that point but, although the #46 initially made only minor progress, Hayden's Michelin-shod RCV lost pace dramatically in the closing stages and Rossi snatched second position from the American into turn one at the start of the final lap.

Stoner, Rossi and Hayden celebrated on the podium in front of a sea of fans assembled on the home straight. Rossi threw his kneesliders into the cheering crowd whilst Hayden went one better, marking his second rostrum of the season by pitching his boots to the fans.

Behind the top three, a four-way fight for fourth raged right to the chequered flag, with Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo finally prevailing.

After being overtaken by Rossi for the final time, Toseland stuck within one second of the eight time world champion until lap 18, when he appeared to lose a little pace and was instead left to fight a defensive battle.

As Rossi had found, Toseland was exceptionally hard to pass - the Englishman being strong out of the final turn and staying to the right along the home straight, forcing his opponents to try an outside pass into turn one, and gave away no ground under braking.

Lorenzo made several unsuccessful attempts to pass into turn one, but he finally succeeded when Dovizioso dived inside them both with three laps to go. That move took Toseland's eye off Lorenzo and, as the #52 adjusted his line to try and retake Dovi, he ran wide.

Estoril winner Lorenzo was able to hold fourth to the finish, whilst Toseland, Dovizioso and Nakano exchanged positions to the flag. Nakano, riding a factory-spec Gresini Honda, had been content to watch for most of the race, but was able to exploit Toseland and Dovizioso's battle to move ahead of them both on the final lap.

Toseland was thus left to collect his sixth sixth-place finish of the season, with fellow rookie Dovizioso - tenth at the end of lap one - seventh and over 13secs clear of Colin Edwards. LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, who made a poor start from fourth on the grid, was a fraction behind the Texan with Loris Capirossi the lead Suzuki at the GSV-R's bogey track, in tenth.

Toni Elias capitalised on the first lap action - which included Alice team-mate Sylvain Guintoli and Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen running off track at turn two - by rising to eleventh, with Anthony West the top Kawasaki in twelfth at what looks like being his final home grand prix.

Marco Melandri, a former Phillip Island MotoGP winner, finished 1min 11secs behind his victorious team-mate, in last place.


Australian Grand Prix:

1. Stoner
2. Rossi
3. Hayden
4. Lorenzo
5. Nakano
6. Toseland
7. Dovizioso
8. Edwards
9. de Puniet
10. Capirossi
11. Elias
12. West
13. Hopkins
14. Guintoli
15. Vermeulen
16. Melandri


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