Valentino Rossi took his eleventh victory of the season in a thrilling race at the Polini Australian Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his unbeaten record at Phillip Island to five years. Rossi was pushed all the way by a determined performance from Nicky Hayden, who led for the opening two laps after starting from pole position before Rossi took control. The Italian's initial lead lasted until the halfway stage when, after several attempts to break Hayden's resistance, he allowed the American a brief spell at the front. However, with eight laps remaining Rossi regained control and opened up a one-second advantage that he maintained until the end of the race, clinching the constructors' World Championship for Yamaha to add to the teams and riders' titles.
"It has been an amazing season and today we have won the constructors' title for Yamaha in the year of their 50th Anniversary so I am very happy, congratulations to everybody," said Rossi. "Eleven wins for the year is a fantastic achievement and to do it at Phillip Island is very special. I have won a lot of races here, a lot of important races, and it is a magic track for me - I love it. Today was tough, I had a great rival in Nicky Hayden and it was a great race."
Hayden's plight to stay in touch with Rossi was hindered by a spirited performance from Honda colleague Marco Melandri, who came through from eighth on the grid to challenge for second place at the midway stage of the race. By the time Hayden had shaken off the Italian's attentions it was too late for him to catch Rossi, despite clocking virtually identical times to the race leader over the closing laps.
A late charge from Carlos Checa saw Ducati celebrating at the end of a difficult weekend, the Spaniard riding alone today in the absence of his injured team-mate Loris Capirossi and coming through to snatch the final podium position from Melandri with a draft pass at the finish line. With Capirossi missing out on today's race and Max Biaggi crashing on the opening lap, fourth place for Melandri moves him up to second in the championship, level on points with Hayden with just two rounds remaining.
Whilst Sete Gibernau relegated Colin Edwards to sixth place in today's race with an aggressive pass just four laps from the end, the American also moved ahead of Capirossi and Biaggi in the championship and now lies fourth, just eight points behind Hayden and Melandri. Alex Barros is now all but out of the chase for the runner-up spot after crashing heavily with five laps remaining of today's race and dropping to eighth in the championship. However, his temporary team-mate Chris Vermeulen will be pleased with his performance after taking eleventh place on his MotoGP debut following a close battle for tenth with John Hopkins.
Dani Pedrosa celebrated the 250cc World Championship title for the second successive season at Phillip Island, taking a surprise victory after his only remaining rival crashed out. Local favourite Casey Stoner started well from pole position but lost control of his Aprilia on the fourth lap, taking factory colleague Alex de Angelis down with him and handing Pedrosa the chance to take the title if he could secure victory. Jorge Lorenzo briefly led before last year's winner Sebastian Porto took control, with Pedrosa stalking the Argentinean all the way to the final corner before emerging to take a dramatic win by just 0.027 seconds at the line. Lorenzo completed the podium in a lonely third place, with Hector Barbera clinching fourth after an entertaining battle with Andrea Dovizioso and Hiroshi Aoyama.
Thomas Lüthi leads the 125cc World Championship by twelve points after sealing his fourth victory of the season in the day's opening race. Lüthi bolted from pole position and forged an immediate advantage that he would hold until the end of the race. Mika Kallio, who led the series by two points going into today's event, battled for second place until the final lap in a combative group but could only manage fifth place as Tomoyoshi Koyama and Marco Simoncelli completed the podium, with Mattia Pasini in fourth place.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
Photo: Gauloises Team Yamaha