Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi finished a strong second in an entertaining Australian Grand Prix, chasing home Casey Stoner to finish on the podium for the tenth successive year at Phillip Island and for the eleventh time this season. Jorge Lorenzo's challenge ended in the gravel trap at turn one, when a mistake at the start saw the Mallorcan slide out of the race.
Rossi, starting from the front row for the tenth race in a row, finished the first lap in third position, behind Dani Pedrosa and Stoner. On lap two both Stoner and Rossi passed the Spaniard and then quickly began to pull away on their own, quickly opening out a gap from the chasing pack. Darkening skies overhead at that point meant there was a rush in pit lane as the mechanics switched the spare bikes over to wet settings, but the sun eventually came out and the threat of rain subsided as the Italian and the Australian set in for a head-to-head battle. At times Rossi looked to be within striking distance and he made a couple of moves at mid-race distance, but with Lorenzo out he knew that he had to capitalise and he eventually played it safe to come home behind the resurgent Stoner with twenty important points in his pocket and an impressive gap of over twenty seconds to Pedrosa in third.
Lorenzo had struggled with grip issues all weekend here and he made a mistake at the start, braking too late and cannoning into the back of Nicky Hayden. The impact damaged his front brake and he was unable to slow down for the corner, losing the rear and tumbling into the gravel trap. He was taken to the Clinica Mobile and treated for mild cuts to his nose and the little finger of his right hand, but there were no serious injuries and nothing that will affect his being able to ride next week.
Today's result means that Rossi now has a lead over Lorenzo of 38 points with two races left. He will have his first chance to clinch the World Championship title at the next round, which comes at Sepang in Malaysia in one week's time.
Position: 2nd Time: +1.935
"This was one of the most fun and definitely one of the most important second places of my career! We were on the limit for the whole race and there were some amazing slides, it was 'old-style' racing. To have a race like this in the sunshine at Phillip Island is an incredible emotion and I really enjoyed myself. Of course I wanted to win but I had to use my head a bit and once I'd seen that Lorenzo was out, I knew that if I made a mistake it would be a big disaster! Anyway I tried in places but Stoner was a bit faster than me. I didn't give up until the end but Casey really deserved this win; I want to give him my congratulations. We leave with twenty important points and now the championship lead is big and we can try to finish it in Malaysia, where we will have the first 'match point'."
Position: DNF Time:
"I'm a little bit sad for this crash, not for the championship but for my mistake; I didn't expect this kind of mistake from myself. It was totally my fault, I miscalculated the distance off the line and Nicky braked earlier than I was expecting and I hit him. I thought I could save it but my front brake was broken and so when I tried to brake for the corner I couldn't and the rear made a big slide. I have a bit of damage to my nose and my finger but it could have been a lot worse. This is what happens in racing and, although I am disappointed about the race, the most important thing is that I am not badly injured. I want to say sorry to Nicky because I ruined his race today. As for the points, the title was a long shot anyway and now I just want to look forward to the final two races."
"This has been a very important day for our championship because now we're leaving with a lead of 38 points. It is a pity that Lorenzo crashed, because who knows what kind of race this could have been with him in it as well? Valentino today rode with a big heart and a lot of fight, trying to win the race but also making sure he didn't lose these twenty points. He tried hard but never went over the top. The team did a great job as well this weekend to make this possible and we have to carry this same concentration and motivation forward to Sepang next weekend, where we will be aiming for the maximum possible result."
"For sure we weren't expecting a result like this, even after such a difficult weekend! We have found a lot more problems here than we were expecting but in the end the team were able to make a good step for warm-up and another improvement for the race, so we missed a chance to fight for the podium today. It just wasn't to be this weekend. The championship is basically finished for us now but we will look forward to the last two races and continue as we were before. At the end of the day, we're lucky that Jorge didn't pick up worse injuries in a crash like this so we will count ourselves lucky and move on to Malaysia."