Valentino Rossi won his eleventh race of the season today at Phillip Island, the Italian beating Nicky Hayden after a tense, tactical, battle which saw the pair locked together until Rossi made a late race burst - clinching his seventh Australian Grand Prix victory and with it the 2005 MotoGP Manufacturers' world title for Yamaha.
Qualifying had seen Hayden clinch his third pole of the season, from Rossi, while an unconfident Sete Gibernau completed the front row ahead of top Bridgestone rider Carlos Checa who - although demoted to row two on qualifying tyres - had, in contrast to Gibernau, lapped consistently fast on race rubber.
But morning warm-up had resulted in a further shake-up, with the other Repsol Honda of sixth on the grid Max Biaggi surprisingly setting the pace by 0.189secs from lone factory Ducati rider Checa and Biaggi's team-mate Hayden, with Rossi and Gibernau completing the top five.
Meanwhile, with Thomas Luthi and Dani Pedrosa having won the125cc and 250cc races, the seven RCV riders had been denied the chance to claim Honda's 600th GP victory - that honour going to 2006 MotoGP rider Pedrosa - but a premier-class Honda win would still prevent Yamaha wrapping-up the Manufacturers' Championship...
When the red lights went out, Hayden converted pole into a turn one lead - ahead of Rossi, Checa, Edwards, Gibernau and Melandri - while Biaggi's race lasted less than half a lap after he was flicked off his factory RCV while trying to make up places under braking for the Honda hairpin. The Roman would remount, but immediately retire.
Man on the move up front in the early laps would be Melandri, who had passed his team-mate Gibernau and Colin Edwards by the end of lap one and was soon catching the top three of Hayden, Rossi and Checa ahead.
Marco would demote Checa at the Honda hairpin on lap three, but the race now had a new leader with Rossi having swept past Hayden in turn one. The American then suffered a further blow when he was passed by Melandri but - just as Rossi was starting to make a break up front - Hayden began his recovery, throwing his #69 machine past Melandri on the run-up to Lukey Heights and immediately reeling Rossi back in.
But while the top two began to break away, Checa was fading back from Melandri and starting to come under pressure from countryman Gibernau - with the pair swapping fourth several times by lap 11 of 27, while the top five were still covered by two corners.
Indeed, the fighting between the two Spaniards seemed to spur them on and, just after the halfway mark, they were now in podium contention - having now caught Melandri. But events ahead were to soon place all three in with a chance of victory.