A difficult 250cc race in changing conditions at Phillip Island belonged to title challenger Roberto Rolfo after the Italian performed faultlessly and took a start-to-finish victory just when he needed it most to bolster his title challenge.

With only one round to go, the Fortuna Honda rider pulled out a critical result, finishing ahead of local hero Anthony West and Fonsi Nieto on a day when, importantly in terms of the destination of the world championship, Manuel Poggiali was ninth and Toni Elias eleventh.

The startline was lashed by rain as the lights went green and Rolfo charged through the pack to head the field into turn one. He was out on his own and unchallenged from the early stages and, by the end of lap two, was a full seven seconds ahead of Aussie charger West.

But West wasn't going to lie down and let Rolfo romp away with a possible win, and the Australian Aprilia rider gave it everything to close the gap down to 3.2secs in the closing laps. It wasn't enough, however, and the Italian showed that he had plenty of speed left in hand and extended the gap to 9.5secs again as the flag loomed.

The win was Rolfo's second of the year, and added to an impressive campaign that has seen him scored point at every round so far this season to keep himself firmly in the title chase.

"That race was great," Rolfo said, "In the morning warm-up, we knew what we had to do and, after the changes we made, I knew I would be fast after what has been a difficult qualifying job. The team has been fantastic here and I'm happy with the way I could push all the way through the race."

The championship table now shows Poggiali on top with 233 but with Rolfo closer on 226. Elias is now out of contention with 206 points leaving the last round of 16, at Valencia in two weeks' time, to concentrate on a two-horse race for the title.



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