Casey Stoner concluded the 2008 MotoGP World Championship as he started it, with a victory, after dominating Sunday's season-ending grand prix at Valencia - a result that also handed Ducati second in the constructors' world championship.

Starting from pole, Stoner initially lost the lead to Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa - but never allowed the Spaniard to get the breathing room he desired by diving inside at turn two.

Stoner steadily increased his lead thereafter, winning by 3.39sec from Pedrosa after 30 laps, with 2008 world champion Valentino Rossi a distant third for Fiat Yamaha.

"I couldn't ask for much more!" smiled Casey. "To end a difficult season in this way is a fantastic feeling and it's a nice way to thank everybody at Ducati for their hard work.

"Once again my crew got it right, finding a good setting for the bike despite limited dry track time. To be honest I was quite worried during qualifying yesterday because I didn't have a good feeling at all but by the time we put the softer tyres on the bike was already feeling better and then the guys did a fantastic job overnight and in the warm-up this morning to iron out a few more of the problems.

"This was the first time we've ridden in these conditions all weekend so there were still a few question marks before the race, so to go out and set the pace like that was a nice feeling," added Stoner, who had already secured second in the riders' world championship over Pedrosa.

Stoner's sixth victory of the season, at a circuit where he celebrated his debut success in the 125cc class back in 2003, was also the 150th for Australian riders in all grand prix classes and means that Ducati has won 17 of the 36 races since the start of the 800cc era.

"The win from Casey today is a real gift to us because we've finished second in the [constructors'] championship," said Ducati Corse technical director Filippo Preziosi. "I'm also happy because after two days of tests here on Monday and Tuesday Casey will finally be able to have his operation in the knowledge that he finished the season with a wonderful victory."

Stoner delayed a bone graft operation to fix the broken scaphoid in his left wrist, an old injury which had never healed, until after the Valencia test in order to evaluate Ducati's GP9. Stoner previously rode an early version of the bike, which features a carbon fibre chassis, during the post race test at Catalunya in June - and was faster than he had been on this year's GP8.

"I'm really excited about testing the new bike tomorrow - it's the reason that we've kept on riding," confirmed Stoner. "It felt good the last time I rode it and I'm sure they've made it better, so hopefully we can have a good first session and go home for the winter full of optimism about next season."

Meanwhile, Marco Melandri brought the curtain down on his ill-fated Ducati career with a 16th place finish. The Italian mounted an impressive charge to rise from 18th and last to tenth, but a mistake with just three laps to go undid all his hard work.

"Despite everything that was a fun race because I felt quite comfortable on the bike and I was able to attack and pass a whole bunch of riders," said Melandri. "Starting from so back was a handicap and I lost touch with the fast group that Lorenzo was in. But I lapped well with a decent pace. Unfortunately near the end of the race I hit neutral instead of first gear and ran wide. I'm disappointed because it would have been nice for me and the team to finish well. At least it was a dignified race."

"I'm pleased for Marco because even though he didn't get the result in the end, he has fought hard, made a lot of passes and rode as he knows he can in his final race with us," stated Preziosi.

Stoner will be joined by his new team-mate Nicky Hayden on Monday, while Melandri will make his debut for Kawasaki.



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