Just as the weather forecasts predicted, heavy rain at the Grand Prix of Australia meant that the 250cc race was nothing short of a lottery - and Toni El?as, who started from pole position, watched helplessly as his numbers failed to come up.

The young Spaniard did not get away well and crossed the line for the first time down in tenth place. Things only got worse for El?as, who struggled to make any headway in the tricky conditions and, indeed, dropped another place by the end to finish a disappointing eleventh after failing to find an effective set-up for his Aprilia.

The result means that the Telefonica-backed rider is now out of the running for the world championship, even if he remains a firm favourite to take race victory at the last round of the year in Valencia early next month.

"We knew that any real chance of the championship would be difficult after the crash in Rio," Elias admitted, "but, today, it was a case of total bad luck that the rain arrived and we just could not find the right set-up to deal with the conditions.

"In the race, I could not ride at my usual speed because the bike was sliding so much, and I could not do any more. I have fought to the bitter end for this championship and, if the race had been dry, things would have been different. But, in these conditions, it was impossible to be up with the leaders on this occasion.

"I had a beautiful fight for the title. At the start of the season, things were looking pretty gloomy because of some problems but, by the halfway stage, I was able to salvage the situation. Then I made the mistake in Rio, and everything became a lot more complicated. But, I guess it was not meant to be - we have many more years to fight for a championship."

Elias' team-mate, Fonsi Nieto, was initially sixth behind a leading group that was headed by Roberto Rolfo. The Italian escaped from his pursuers inside several laps, with only Nieto, who was able to regain some ground from sixth and move up the order, his only real challenger.

Within a few laps, Nieto caught up to the back of Randy de Puniet in third and kicked off a tussle with the Frenchman for the last step on the podium. Both riders passed each other numerous times, before de Puniet made an error and hit the ground with two laps to go. The Repsol-Telef?nica MoviStar rider avoided becoming entangled in the incident and went on to secure his second successive top three result.

"Today has been bittersweet for us," the Spaniard revealed, "In the dry, everything seemed good for Toni and I but, just as they predicted, it was a wet race and that was probably the worst thing that could have happened to us and our chances of fighting for the championship.

"During the race, I felt really comfortable and could make a decent rhythm, but, at the start, I lost a lot of time and went backwards. If I had got away okay, then for sure I would have been able to run with [Ant] West. I was quite far away from the group but, little by little, I was able to close the gap to de Puniet and we fought elbow-to-elbow for third place.

"I knew, on the approach to the line, I was a lot faster than him and was sure that I could take the podium place. That was my strategy and I knew I could not fail because we are so close on points. However, in the end, he made a mistake and hit the floor.

"I have to be happy because there have been quite a few low points this year, and to return to the podium is good for me. If the race had been in the dry, I am sure that it would have been better for us. When I came up to the line, I did not know where Toni was placed and was ready to lose the podium if it helped him in the championship, but he was quite far behind and there was nothing I could do to help. It is a shame for the team, as much as for Toni, to lose the title at this late stage."

 

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