Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner shook off an early challenge from Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden to speed to his second win in a row in his home grand prix at Phillip Island, Australia.
Stoner and Hayden broke out quickly, the pair setting a pace that quickly carried them clear of the field. Stoner was running at the same pace he’d run in practice, but Hayden’s pace was much quicker and he couldn’t maintain it.
Stoner’s gap of .177 secs. at the end of lap seven more than doubled on lap eight. It was only slightly bigger on lap nine, but more than doubled on lap 10 and kept growing.
“Nicky (Hayden) was following me for a long time and then Nicky seemed to drop off and give me a some breathing space,” Stoner said after his fifth win of the year. “From that we built up a great advantage.”
By the end of the 27 lap race Stoner had 6.504 secs., below the peak of plus-eight, but now on Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi.
A qualifying crash had put Rossi down in 12th on the grid with a bit of whiplash. That wasn’t the end of his drama. There was a scare on the first lap when he narrowly avoided hitting San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis, who crashed right in front of him. Then his progress was slowed by the four-way battle for third. It was being waged at the front by Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland and Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, with JiR Team Scot MotoGP’s Andrea Dovizioso and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Shinya Nakano in their wake.
Rossi took Toseland on lap 13, but found himself six seconds down on second-placed Hayden with 14 laps to go.
Rossi never gave up. He took a few tenths out of Hayden lap by lap, with the interval shrinking more rapidly towards the end. Rossi’s rear Bridgestone was holding up much better than Hayden’s Michelin and once the gap stated coming down Hayden was in trouble. So when Rossi came streaming past on the front straight and into turn one on the final lap, Hayden had no answer. He tried one attack, but ran wide and was forced to settle for third, and first Michelin.
He said he’d struggled with tire choice right up to the end of the sighting lap, nearly changing to a harder rear tire.
The scrap for fourth went to Lorenzo with a pass of Dovizioso less than two laps from the end. Nakano stole fifth on the final lap as Toseland, who was celebrating his 28th birthday, dropped Dovi to seventh.
Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards won the battle of eighth that he fought the distance with LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet, ninth, and Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi.
Alice Team’s Toni Elias (Duc) was a close 11th.
Twenty seconds on came Kawasaki’s Anthony West in his last home MotoGP race. He’ll be replaced by Marco Melandri next year. Westie edged teammate John Hopkins, the 13th place finisher, Alice Team’s Sylvain Guintoli (Duc), and Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen.
Vermeulen’s hopes for a good finish ended when he was forced off the track in turn one when Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa crashed. The same incident put Guintoli at the back of the field.
Rossi finished the day with 332 points. Stoner solidified his second with 245 while the idled Pedrosa has 209.
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
5. Shinya Nakano (Honda)
6. James Toseland (Yamaha)
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
8. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
9. Randy de Puniet (Honda)
10. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
11. Toni Elias (Ducati)
12. Anthony West (Kawasaki)
13. John Hopkins (Kawasaki)
14. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
15. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
16. Marco Melandri (Ducati)