Australian favourite Ant West coped admirably with variable track conditions to finish second in the rain-affected 250cc Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island, but did not quite have enough in hand to overhaul lights-to-flag winner Roby Rolfo.

For West, it was a fourth top-three finish in this year's 250cc world championship, and lifted him from seventh to sixth in the series after 15 of the 16 rounds, but he completed the 25-lap race 14.040secs behind the race-winning Fortuna Honda of Rolfo.

The race began with a wet track, but the surface began to dry during the middle and late stages. Rolfo led from start to finish, while West, who started on the third row of the grid after qualifying eleventh in dry weather, found himself up to fourth by the end of the opening lap. He improved to second on the second lap and held the position until the finish.

Rolfo, however, had established a decisive eight-second lead in the opening four laps and, although West closed to within three seconds on lap 17, the Italian ensured that that was as close as he got. In the closing laps, Rolfo extended his lead again as West settled for second position, eventually coming home over ten seconds in front of the Australian.

"The weather helped me, and I like the wet, but I'd also have liked a dry race," West admitted, "Rolfo got a really good start, and I was held up by by couple of guys. Once I got past them, I could get my rhythm going and I was trying really hard to catch Rolfo - I caught up a little bit, but I couldn't catch right up to him.

"In the middle of the race, the track was drying and I wanted to conserve my tyres. Maybe I was a little too conservative, but I thought it might rain again by the end of the race. In the last few laps, I was just trying to stay on. It was real slick out there and the tyres started to get a little too hot.

"The last few races have been pretty bad for me. I got kind of lost with bike set-up. Even this weekend I've had some good results and bad. This result in front of my 'home' crowd is perfect, so I'm very happy. This gives me some more confidence for Valencia."

West's family attended the race at Phillip Island, with father Tony, mum Pam, sister Brooke and brother Jon all braving the conditions. Tony was also present for his son's debut grand prix win at Assen this year - and reckoned he may have had something to do with the poor weather.

"They're starting to call me 'The Rainman' because, every time I turn up to races, it rains," he laughed, "Ant is good in those conditions, as we've seen, so thank God for the weather this time.

"Ant has done it tough this year - he's had three broken vertebrae, two broken feet, and he's been in a lot of pain at various parts of the season. For him to get a good result today is just terrific, because he's been under a fair bit of pressure."



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