Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner won his third straight Australian Grand Prix by holding off the determined challenge of Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi over 27 laps of the scenic Phillip Island circuit high on the cliffs above the Bass Strait south of Melbourne.But Rossi may have been the bigger winner, since he pocketed 20 points, while teammate Jorge Lorenzo earned none.  The Majorcan fell just after ramming Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden from behind in the first corner of the race. The combination of circumstances gives Rossi a 38-point lead heading into the penultimate round of the championship in Malaysia next week and a virtual lock to retain his MotoGP World Championship.Hayden survived the shunt, but ran off the track at about 125 mph, through a gravel trap and a water-filled gully before re-joining the race in last place. He soldiered on to finish 15th.While Hayden was calling on his off-road skills, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was leading the first lap before being consumed by Stoner and Rossi, with San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alex De Angelis fourth from the start.From lap two to the end the order of the top four didn't change, only the gaps, and the race wasn't very interesting for the Honda riders who had mostly lonely rides.But Stoner and Rossi more than made up for it, with Stoner in top form in only his second race after a two month lay-off and Rossi determined to find an opening.It never happened. A few laps from the end it appeared Rossi would make a run at Stoner, but he thought better of it, realizing the foolishness of a mistake."I want to try and win because I felt good with the setting and sincerely I don't want to say that if I didn't have the championship I win," Rossi said. "You always have to keep five per cent and not push too much because if I make a mistake today after the mistake of Lorenzo then I am very stupid. I tried to win but I was always keeping a five per cent margin."Said Stoner, "I'd forgotten how good that winning feeling is and of all my victories, this is perhaps the most special," Stoner said. "I can honestly say that from a physical perspective I can't ever remember feeling this strong after a race, which shows that the work we have done and the time we took out has been spot on."Pedrosa joked that there should be points for the holeshot, then got serious, saying, "It's good to be on the podium again, especially after the crash in qualifying yesterday, so I'm happy about that."Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) stayed with the leaders for the first four laps before losing touch. Afterwards he said, "It has been a fantastic weekend all round and I really enjoyed myself in that race - especially the first four or five laps when I was running with the top guys in the championship."Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards muffed the start, finishing the first lap in ninth, a position he couldn't break from until lap four when he moved up to eighth. Then he went from eighth to fifth on the fifth lap, and held it to the end. His was a lonely race, with no threat from behind. Sixth went to Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso after the Italian broke through of the best downfield battled."I saw de Angelis in front of me and I tried everything I could to get close to him," Edwards said. "I'm tired of finishing fifth, so I gave it everything I had. But the start cost me fourth and some precious points."Behind Dovizioso came Hayate Racing's Marco Melandri, the Kawasaki rider edging out LCR Honda's Randy De Puniet by half a second.Then followed the lone representative of the Pramac Racing team, Mika Kallio (Ducati), alone in ninth place and well clear of tenth place finisher Toni Elias.

Results:

1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)

2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)

4. Alex De Angelis (Honda)

5. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)

6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)

7. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki)

8. Randy De Puniet (Honda)

9. Mika Kallio (Ducati)

10. Toni Elias (Honda)

MotoGP Headlines

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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