Youichi Ui broke away from the eleven rider lead pack at Phillip Island and never looked back in today's 125cc Australian Grand Prix, while title rivals Manuel Poggiali and Toni Elias battled all the way to the flag in a thrilling duel for the remaining podium places, and vital championship points.
The heat was well and truly on 18-year-old Elias after the Spaniard lost the championship lead when he crashed out at Motegi one week ago, but matters were made much worse when he was left in just seventeenth place at the conclusion of yesterday's second qualifying session – while new points leader Manuel Poggiali was on top form and took pole.
Alongside the San Marian on the Phillip Island grid were Catalunya victor Lucio Cecchinello, Motegi winner Youichi Ui and early season points leader Gino Borsoi. Of these, Ui was the only rider outside the Elias/Poggiali pairing still in with an outside chance of the title, but the Derbi star would need to grab a large handful of points from the two teenagers today to stand a real chance.
As the red lights went out it was Poggiali and Ui who battled into turn one with the pole sitter gaining the advantage – but a magnificent start by Elias saw him move from seventeenth to fourth by turn one!
The Telefonica rider then sliced past third placed Perugini, who had shot up from eighth on the grid, before deposing second placed Ui before the end of lap one. Elias continued his charge by passing Poggiali mid way around lap two, but Poggiali fought back at the final corner where both he and Ui went around either side of Elias, for the Japanese rider to take the lead for the first time, as they started lap 3.
By lap four it looked like Elias' storming start may have been down to a low first gear, helping him get away from a stand still, but penalising him at the start of the long run to the start/finish line.
Indeed, over the next few laps Elias would lose third to Simone Sanna, Lucio Cecchinello and then (thirteenth placed starter) Angel Rodriguez all on the long climb up to the line. By lap 6 the trio had attacked the leaders to make the order: Cecchinello from Ui, Rodriguez, Poggiali and Elias.
Cecchinello continued to lead by lap 9, but behind him the riders changed continually as the riders slipstreamed and their way up and down the field. Main beneficiary of this was Daniel Pedrosa who had worked his way up the leading group of eleven, and was soon up to fourth, and now available to help his teammates cause.
A mistake by Cecchinello one lap later, when he missed his braking point slightly, allowed Elias and Rodriguez through – with the 16 year old leading his first ever Grand Prix on lap 11 of 23, while Elias chased. Meanwhile, Poggiali had faded to fifth, but was still in touch with the front and near enough to benefit from a slipstream.