Rossi beats Barros for 50th GP victory. Honda duo run away at front of the MotoGP pack in fastest-ever Australian Grand Prix.

Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) scored his 50th Grand Prix victory at Phillip Island this afternoon, winning a titanic duel with Alex Barros (West Honda Pons RC211V-Michelin). The pair finished the race well ahead of third-finisher Tohr u Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) who won a similarly frantic battle for the final podium place with Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini RC211V-Michelin), giving Honda's V5 four-stroke a clean sweep at the epic Australian circuit. Michelin riders filled seven of the first nine positions and currently hold the top ten places in the MotoGP World Championship.

Rossi and Barros ran away from the pack from the very first laps, pulverising the track record time and again as they fought for supremacy through the Island's sweeping, high-speed curves. Barros led from the start, chased hard by Rossi, who had slipped 1.5 seconds behind at one-third distance before mounting a spirited counter-attack. The Brazilian veteran and Italian youngster are getting used to sharing racetracks together -- they've now battled side by side on three successive Sundays, Barros b eating Rossi for the win at Motegi and again for second place at Sepang, but losing out today when the pair attacked Honda hairpin for the final time, Rossi slightly ahead and Barros running off the track

"That was another great race between the two, and their tyre choices worked really well, with a fast, consistent pace and both lap and race records broken," said Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier. "Alex chose a slightly softer rear than Valentino today, just because he liked the feel of the tyre. Their lap times were as fast as in qualifying, which isn't so surprising, since they both used race tyres in qualifying. Although we didn't get pole here, our strategy will be to continue without qualifying tyres because we believe this gives our riders the best chance to get their bike settings correct for the race, and World Championships are won on Sundays, not Saturdays."

Rossi was delighted with his half-century of victories, which ended an unusual two-race drought. "Fifty wins is a dream, and Alex was so difficult to beat," said the 23-year old, who has won every one of his 24 premier-class successes with Michelin. "His pace was incredible in the beginning, but then he had some slides and I was able to catch him. I waited until the final laps before going past and I expected his attack at the hairpin, so I took the inside line. He did come past but he ran o ff the track and the battle was over."

Barros was happy enough with his third successive podium finish. "I used a slightly softer rear than Valentino, so I pushed really hard early on to try and open a gap," said Barros, who celebrated his 32nd birthday last Friday. "Even though I maintained a fast rhythm he came back at me. I had no engine braking on the last lap, that was my problem, but he deserved the win."

Ukawa's third-place finish was crucial, since it brought him to within one point of second overall Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), who could only manage sixth today. The Japanese beat compatriot Kato by less than two tenths of a second, with Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Honda NSR500) a close fifth. "I tried to follow the leaders but I couldn't quite keep their pace," said Ukawa after his first podium finish since last month's Portuguese GP. "That left me in a big fight with Kato and van den Goorbergh, but I really needed those points!"

Diminutive Kato struggled throughout to get his RCV to change direction through the track's fast corners, but he was still able to get the better of top two-stroke rider van den Goorbergh on the final lap.

Today's Australian GP ended a gruelling run of three back-to-back Grands Prix which have taken the MotoGP circus from Japan to Malaysia and Australia in double-quick time. The first-ever four-stroke-based MotoGP World Championship concludes at Valencia, in Spain, on November 3.

-michelin-