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Fantastic fiftieth for Island winner Rossi.

Valentino Rossi took his 50th GP victory at the spectacular seaside circuit of Phillip Island today, after the World Champion withstood an epic race-long duel with hard racer Alex Barros – that only ended when the Brazilian ran off track on the last lap while trying to outbrake Vale at the aptly named Honda hairpin.

Yesterday's final qualifying session had produced a heart stopping battle between some unlikely names, which resulted in an all two-stroke front row - and the first ever for the Proton KR team and Bridgestone tyres courtesy of Phillip Island ace Jeremy McWilliams – who claimed his third pole at the circuit.

The previous best qualifying result for Team KR since they started manufacturing the 3-cylinder machine was when Kenny Roberts Jr qualified in second place for the German GP in 1998.

Phillip Island also marked the first time ever that there has been two KR3 machines on the front row and the first time a 3-cylinder machine has been on pole in the premier class since Raymond Roche on a Honda at the San Marino GP in 1984, a race won by Randy Mamola.

As well as the two stroke domination, today was the first time that a front row has not featured an Italian rider since the Australian GP in 2000, coincidentally McWilliams' only other pole position in the top class, and the first time in more than 20 years (in the premier-class) that all the riders on the front row of the grid have passed their 30th birthday.

Lining up alongside the Ulsterman were local hero Garry McCoy, McWilliams' team-mate Nobu Aoki and top Honda Jurgen van den Goorbergh - starting from the front row for the first time since the Czech GP last year.

Salvaging RCV and Michelin pride was Alex Barros in fifth. Barros has finished fourth on three occasions at Phillip Island in 1998, 2000 and 2001, but has not managed to make it onto the podium. Tohru Ukawa was lead Repsol rider in sixth, ahead of three time Island winner Rossi and MYT's Max Biaggi, to complete an explosive second row.

Not starting today's race was the unfortunate Norick Abe, who destroyed his new M1 yesterday morning in a crash that left him feeling the worse for wear, although first predictions of broken bones were fortunately false. Nevertheless, Abe's huge off (at turn one) would rule him out of today's Grand Prix.

Ten minutes before the start all the MotoGP riders, teams, fans and media held a minutes silence for the Bali bomb victims on what was a national day of mourning in Australia.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
The moment Rossi won the Australian Grand Prix - Barros outbrakes himself at Honda hairpin while trying to take the lead on the last lap and has to go down the escape road, he would recover to take second.
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