If Valentino Rossi wins his seventh MotoGP championship in the next three weeks, he might look back to a gravel trap in Australia as the place where he sealed the title.
Rossi extended his lead in the World Championship to 38 points over Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo by finishing second to Casey Stoner at the Australian Grand Prix on Oct. 18 at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Lorenzo ran into the back of Nicky Hayden entering the first turn on the first lap, careened into the gravel trap and crashed out of the race.
2008 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Rossi leads by nearly a race-and-a-half’s worth of points with just two races remaining this season. He can clinch his seventh MotoGP World Championship and his ninth world title overall by finishing fourth or better Oct. 25 at the Grand Prix of Malaysia at Sepang.
After his superb ride to his third consecutive victory at his home track, one can only wonder if Stoner would have been the third rider in the title fight on his Ducati Team machine if he was healthy all season. Stoner missed three races from August to September, including the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, due to illness.
2007 World Champion Stoner climbed to third in the standings with his first victory since the Italian Grand Prix in June. He has finished second and first since returning to the grid Oct. 4 in Portugal.
Casey Stoner Speaks… (Winner)
"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."
Pole winner Stoner took the lead from Dani Pedrosa on Lap 2 and never trailed thereafter. But he faced heavy pressure from Rossi for the next 17 laps, with the riders both setting lap times quicker than Stoner’s pole lap.
Stoner finally pulled away over the last eight laps, winning by 1.935 seconds. Pedrosa finished a distant third, 22.618 seconds behind.
Americans Colin Edwards and Hayden finished fifth and 15th, respectively. Edwards had a slow start and dropped to ninth on Lap 1 on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine but passed four riders on Laps 4 and 5 to climb back to fifth. "I’ll hold my hands up and say I really messed up the start," Edwards said.
2006 World Champion Hayden also was forced into the gravel trap after the contact with Lorenzo on the first lap. But unlike 2009 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Lorenzo, Hayden stayed upright and continued on his damaged Ducati, finishing one lap down.
Race Results Phillip Island
1. Casey Stoner Australia Ducati
2. Valentino Rossi Italy Yamaha +1.935
3. Dani Pedrosa Spain Honda +22.618
4. Alex de Angelis San Marino Honda +32.702
5. Colin Edwards United States Yamaha +35.885
6. Andrea Dovizioso Italy Honda +38.482
7. Marco Melandri Italy Kawasaki +44.461
8. Randy de Puniet France Honda +44.941
9. Mika Kallio Finland Ducati +54.345
10. Toni Elias Spain Honda +1:01.205
11. Chris Vermeulen Australia Suzuki +1:05.417
12. Loris Capirossi Italy Suzuki +1:05.950
13. Gabor Talmacsi Hungary Honda +1:17.951
14. James Toseland Great Britain Yamaha +1:17.985
15. Nicky Hayden United States Ducati +1 lap
NC Jorge Lorenzo Spain Yamaha +27 laps
NC – Not classified
Fastest lap: Rossi, 1:30.085, Lap 5; Pole lap: Stoner, 1:30.341