PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 16 –

Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner's championship chances increased dramatically after title rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) was ruled out of the Australian Grand Prix with a left hand injury suffered in morning warm-up.Lorenzo was thrown off the inside of his Yamaha after the bike became unsettled in the final left heading onto the front straight. Lorenzo's left hand took a hard blow, with serious damage to his left ring finger. After being treated in the infield care center, he was taken to Melbourne, about 90 minutes away, for further treatment and plastic surgery.

Coming into the race, Lorenzo had only the slimmest hope of keeping his number one plate. To delay the inevitable, he had to finish third or better, if Stoner won, which he's done the past four years here at Phillip Island. Now, with Lorenzo out, Stoner has to finish only sixth or better to seal the title on his 26th birthday. That would give him an insurmountable 50 point lead.  Having not been off the podium in every race he's finished this year, it's a fair bet Stoner will seal the deal in front of friends and family.One of the only things that might deny Stoner a win would be a crash. The bumpy track has claimed a number of riders this weekend, including Lorenzo and teammate Ben Spies, along with Marco Simoncelli-three times in the same corner.

And, of course, the weather. Rain began to fall heavily prior to the start of the 125cc Grand Prix, which was delayed. But, just as quickly, the sun returned.Yamaha's Ben Spies also chose not to race after taking a pounding in a frighteningly fast crash in qualifying. Spies took a hard hit to his back, along with banging up his extremities,  and said his decision to ride would be made in the morning."My rib is the biggest thing," Spies said on Saturday. "I don't know if it's bruised or cracked or what. But it hurts pretty bad. It's just knees elbows, hips everything. I did the big barrel roll, so quite sore everywhere."Yet it was a head injury that put Spies out of the race. The Texan tried to ride in morning warm-up, but couldn't concentrate and decided, along with the team, to sit out.


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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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