He may have finished just eleventh in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, but it was enough for Ruben Xaus to secure the 2004 MotoGP rookie of the year title with one round to go.

The d'Antin Ducati rider now sits tenth in the world championship standings, with his 77-points a massive 40 clear of nearest rookie rival - and fellow team-mate - Neil Hodgson. With a maximum of 25-points available at Valencia Xaus cannot be caught.

"We are happy, because Rub?n has taken the rookie of the year title and I think he has deserved it," said team principal Luis d'Antin. "Furthermore, he has moved up to tenth in the overall classification and I hope that he can defend that spot in Valencia."

"The positive thing is that now I am tenth in the championship and I would love to finish in this position, but whatever happens I think I have shown that I deserve my place (in MotoGP) for the next few years," said Ruben.

However Xaus, like his team-mate, drew little satisfaction from the Australian event itself.

"I'm not at all happy with the race because I had to save myself from a very difficult situation, when I was riding in the group and had to try not to knock anyone off, and I lost a bit of ground doing so," he said.

"I fought back a bit, but the bike was very aggressive today and there was an area in which I was losing around a second. It's a shame because I think that I could have finished the race in a better position. I was really keen to try and get amongst the top five here," added the Spaniard.

Things were even tougher for Hodgson, who was hit by yet more mechanical problems and limped home in 18th place as a result.

"I still don't know what happened, but the bike had an electrical problem and it was giving me trouble from the off. I couldn't ride any quicker however hard I tried, but I wanted to finish the race and at least I managed to do that, even though I was outside the points," said the Brit.

"It has been a difficult weekend and overall a difficult season for me. Now we have a short rest and I hope to get to Valencia with my batteries fully recharged because I would love to finish that race on a high note," he added.

Xaus and Hodgson are the only rookies to have entered each of the 15 races so far this season - Shane Byrne, Michel Fabrizio, James Haydon, James Ellison, Youichi Ui and Kurtis Roberts have only completed a partial season due to either injuries or team changes.

Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden won the 2003 rookie of the year title.

 

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