Youichi Ui broke away from the eleven rider lead pack at Phillip Island and never looked back in today's 125cc Australian Grand Prix, while title rivals Manuel Poggiali and Toni Elias battled all the way to the flag in a thrilling duel for the remaining podium places, and vital championship points.

The heat was well and truly on 18-year-old Elias after the Spaniard lost the championship lead when he crashed out at Motegi one week ago, but matters were made much worse when he was left in just seventeenth place at the conclusion of yesterday's second qualifying session - while new points leader Manuel Poggiali was on top form and took pole.

Alongside the San Marian on the Phillip Island grid were Catalunya victor Lucio Cecchinello, Motegi winner Youichi Ui and early season points leader Gino Borsoi. Of these, Ui was the only rider outside the Elias/Poggiali pairing still in with an outside chance of the title, but the Derbi star would need to grab a large handful of points from the two teenagers today to stand a real chance.

As the red lights went out it was Poggiali and Ui who battled into turn one with the pole sitter gaining the advantage - but a magnificent start by Elias saw him move from seventeenth to fourth by turn one!

The Telefonica rider then sliced past third placed Perugini, who had shot up from eighth on the grid, before deposing second placed Ui before the end of lap one. Elias continued his charge by passing Poggiali mid way around lap two, but Poggiali fought back at the final corner where both he and Ui went around either side of Elias, for the Japanese rider to take the lead for the first time, as they started lap 3.

By lap four it looked like Elias' storming start may have been down to a low first gear, helping him get away from a stand still, but penalising him at the start of the long run to the start/finish line.

Indeed, over the next few laps Elias would lose third to Simone Sanna, Lucio Cecchinello and then (thirteenth placed starter) Angel Rodriguez all on the long climb up to the line. By lap 6 the trio had attacked the leaders to make the order: Cecchinello from Ui, Rodriguez, Poggiali and Elias.

Cecchinello continued to lead by lap 9, but behind him the riders changed continually as the riders slipstreamed and their way up and down the field. Main beneficiary of this was Daniel Pedrosa who had worked his way up the leading group of eleven, and was soon up to fourth, and now available to help his teammates cause.

A mistake by Cecchinello one lap later, when he missed his braking point slightly, allowed Elias and Rodriguez through - with the 16 year old leading his first ever Grand Prix on lap 11 of 23, while Elias chased. Meanwhile, Poggiali had faded to fifth, but was still in touch with the front and near enough to benefit from a slipstream.

Cecchinello regained the lead two laps later, with Elias also working his way ahead of Rodriguez, with Ui demoting the young Honda star further as he pulled out of his slipstream across the start-finish line. However, despite his limited experience at GP level, Rodriguez was putting up a game fight and repassed Ui into turn one, and was looking for a way around the outside of Elias at the same time, but wisely backed off and consolidated third.

Pole sitter - and World Championship leader - Poggiali was still in the hunt, but had slipped back to seventh. However, the San Marian had clearly been pacing himself as while Ui took the lead up front, he increased his pace and pushed his way up through to second behind the Japanese rider, with 6 laps to go.

In a thrilling duel between the two title candidates, Elias then responded by taking second from the San Marian into turn one, with Poggiali having none of it and retaking the place half a lap later.

All this was helping Ui break away up front, and by lap 19 he had a 2.6secs buffer over the frantic fight for second.

As the field fanned out across the start-finish line on lap 20, it was Cecchinello who reappeared at the head of the chasing pack, ahead of Rodriguez, Poggiali and Elias - while the gap to Ui was ever increasing.

Poggiali nipped ahead of Rodriguez into turn one on the next time around, with Elias matching his every move -and eventually overtaking the red machine soon after, while Rodriguez once again showed he wasn't intimidated by all the regular GP frontrunners as he retook third behind Cecchinello by the end of the lap.

Two to go and Poggiali was swamped by the pack into the right-left sweep that precedes the final corner, as Pedrosa and Simone Sanna both dropped him down the order.

Onto the last lap and Elias sliced into second through the first two turns, with Poggiali desperately trying to keep in touch as Sanna and Rodriguez mde it a four way fight for second.

Sanna looked to have second sewn up until he accelerated out of the final tight left hander for the run to the flag, whereupon he high-sided spectacularly off his Aprilia - with the chasing Rodriguez running off the track as he took avoiding action.

The unfortunate Rodriguez stayed on board as he took a high speed trip across the grass, but fell frustratingly as he tried to turn his machine back towards the tarmac.

That left Elias in second with just a few corners to go, but Poggiali got a better run up to the flag and slipstreamed his way ahead by just 0.036secs.

The result means that Poggiali increases his points lead to 16, with race winner Ui now 12 points behind Elias in third.

Full results to follow...

1. Ui
2. Poggiali + 4.709secs
3. Elias +4.743secs
4. Azuma +4.838secs
5. Cecchinello +4.974secs
6. de Angelis +5.053secs
7. Pedrosa 5.562secs
8. Sabbatani 5.881secs


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