Newly crowned 2008 MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi will start Sunday's Australian Grand Prix from just twelfth on the grid after a high-speed accident in qualifying at Phillip Island.

The Fiat Yamaha star ran wide onto the grass approaching the fast left-hand turn three with 15 minutes to go - and was then thrown from his M1 when he hit a gravel trap, suffering slight whiplash and some damage to the muscles in his neck in the process.

Rossi returned to the pits and, after being checked by Dr Costa, went out on his second bike but was out of time for another flying lap.

The Italian will undergo some intensive physiotherapy this evening but should be fit to race on Sunday, when he will be chasing his sixth race victory in a row.

"I was pushing a lot with the qualifying tyre but unfortunately I went too wide at turn two and I came onto the grass on the exit," Rossi explained.

"I thought I could take the bike back onto the track but, as soon as I touched the muddy grass I lost control and I couldn't stop it. Then I bumped my head and neck pretty hard when I landed in the gravel.

"It's a pity that I will have to start from twelfth tomorrow, because this afternoon, with my Bridgestone race tyres, I had a very good pace.

"Now Dr. Costa and the Clinica Mobile staff will work to put me in good shape again - I am having treatment on my neck and then I will go immediately back to the hotel to rest until tomorrow.

"Tomorrow I am sure I will feel a lot better; we have good tyres and a good set-up so I will try to ride a good race!" declared the eight time world champion.

"Everything was going very well until this happened!" said team manager Davide Brivio. "It wasn't really a crash, Valentino just went a little bit off track, couldn't come back on and then hit the gravel. It was a pity because we were looking quite strong and our pace this afternoon was good.

"Valentino has some pain in his neck and he is now having some treatment to make him more comfortable for the night. Tomorrow morning he will have more treatment to make sure he is in the best shape possible for the race, and then we will see!"

Ducati's outgoing world champion Casey Stoner will start his home race from pole position, with Rossi's Michelin-shod team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden completing the front row.



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