Five-times world champion Valentino Rossi rode one of the races of his life to win Sunday's action packed Australian Grand Prix, the Italian superstar being forced to overcome a 'suprise' 10 second penalty in the process.

Rossi got poor start from his first ever Phillip Island pole and slipped to sixth by the end of lap one. However, he would soon regroup and work his way back up the order with the pivotal moment of the race occurring on lap four, when local hero Troy Bayliss crashed out.

"I made a bad start and had to fight a lot at the beginning. It was very dangerous because everyone was very aggressive. A lot of heavy braking and with the strong wind the bike was difficult to control," recalled Vale.

The Repsol rider would grab the advantage in the chaotic aftermath of the Bayliss incident, relieving Sete Gibernau of third place, then Marco Melandri on that same lap.

However, it would be the Melandri move (top picture) which cost him the ten second penalty and potentially race win, as he clearly passed the Fortuna Yamaha rider under waved yellows at the spot where Bayliss was still being treated after his 'off' the lap before.

The move was clearly unintentional, but race direction had no choice but to punish the infringement, and the Repsol team now had the task of trying to inform their rider that he needed to cross the line at least 10secs ahead of his nearest rival to be the race winner.

"I attacked and after seven or eight laps I see on my pit board "less 10"," explained the 24-year-old. "I didn't understand what it meant. Next time I see 'P8'. I say to myself 'f*** what happened?' After I thought about a yellow flag but I don't remember - I didn't see any flag."

Now aware that he needed to pull out a further seven seconds over new second placed man Loris Capirossi, The Doctor - now with no championship considerations to constrain him - simply rode flat out right to the flag.

The factory RCV rider reeled off fastest lap after fastest lap: On lap seven the gap had been just 1.3 seconds, by lap 23 (with four to go) the gap was 10.4secs. Rossi's cause was aided by Capirossi not realising how close he was to victory, but by the time he took the chequered flag, Valentino had a 15secs advantage to put his superb victory beyond doubt.

"The race for me was incredible," beamed Rossi after the podium celebrations. "I don't have a problem with the points so I close my eyes for the last 10 laps. I never make a race at 100% before all the time. Maybe today is the first time."

Rossi's triumph was his eighth of the year, his 58th in GP racing, and 21st consecutive podium finish - putting him just one behind Giacomo Agostini's all-time record of 22 straight top-three finishes in the 1967/8/9 season. It was only at Brno last year that a tyre failure ended Rossi's previous run of 13 podium visits.

The Italian superstar also holds the MotoGP lap record at 13 of the 15 circuits he has ridden this year. (Capirossi holds the Mugello lap record and Max Biaggi the Sachsenring record).

Time for a new challenge Valentino...?

 

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