In front of 50,541 spectators at Phillip Island, Casey Stoner repeated his 2007 home victory in the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. The Ducati rider led the race from start to finish after taking off from pole, and eventually crossed the line some six seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
Stoner´s fifth victory of the year, combined with a first lap crash from Dani Pedrosa, means that last year´s MotoGP World Champion is all-but assured of the runner-up spot in the standings in 2008. Pedrosa picked up a contusion to his left leg in the fall, but was otherwise unharmed in the incident.
Stoner´s future Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden attempted to keep up with the local hero over the course of the race, but the Australian proved too hot to handle in the final third. From then on Hayden had to be aware of the threat of newly crowned MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi lurking in the shadows, as the Fiat Yamaha stalked the man who beat him to the title in 2006.
Rossi overtook Hayden on the final lap, and held off the American´s attempts to re-pass him as the chequered flag loomed. Starting from his worst position on the grid of the entire season, Rossi´s move up to second from twelfth was nothing short of majestic.
Rossi´s teammate Jorge Lorenzo came home fourth in the battle of the race, involving himself, Shinya Nakano, James Toseland and Andrea Dovizioso. Toseland had been the chief protagonist of the action over the course of the 27-lap race, duking it out with Rossi and Lorenzo in the early stages and pushing hard for the podium on his 28th birthday. The Tech 3 Yamaha rider gave perhaps his best performance to date onboard a MotoGP bike, and was unlucky to be hustled by the more experienced Nakano and relegated to sixth.
Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi rounded off the first ten past the line, whilst home rider Chris Vermeulen was denied the chance to push for a higher position by his running off-track on the opening lap.
Rossi´s charge up the field could easily have been halted by the only other crash apart from that of Pedrosa, when Alex de Angelis hit the ground just a few yards in front of him.