Ducati’s Casey Stoner delighted his home fans by winning a fourth consecutive Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island on Sunday.
Stoner, who secured pole position on his 25th birthday a day earlier, completed the 27-lap race in 41 minutes 9.128 seconds, more than eight seconds ahead of newly crowned world champion Jorge Lorenzo of Spain on a gusty day at the 4.45km circuit.
Seven-time premier class champion Valentino Rossi finished third after battling through from eighth on the grid, snatching the podium spot from Ducati rider and future team mate Nicky Hayden of the United States on the final lap.
“We didn’t know what to expect before the race,” a buoyant Stoner told a televised interview, referring to the changeable weather at Phillip Island that left pit crews scratching their heads for most of the weekend.
“Jorge gave it a go and after I had a couple of second gap I thought I’d build on that slightly because he was running some pretty good times.
“We managed to pull that gap, get us comfortable and ease into the race so we were very, very happy with this one.”
The 2007 world champion Stoner roared off the grid to open a 1.5 second gap from Lorenzo’s Yamaha after the first lap and was never threatened thereafter as brilliant sunshine dried out the scenic track that had earlier been doused with showers.
With Lorenzo also enjoying a luxury of space in second place, the race’s drama was relegated to a battle for third between Italian Rossi and Hayden.
After snapping at Rossi’s heels for most of the race, Hayden nosed in front at the circuit’s Honda hairpin with less than three laps remaining.
Rossi regained track position in an aggressive move at the same turn on the final lap, then held on for the podium spot that left Hayden looking far from happy in the pitlane after the race.
“The battle with Nicky on the last lap was great, I’m so happy, congratulations to him,” Rossi said after preserving his perfect record of podium spots in 11 premier class races at Phillip Island. “I’m so happy to be here on the podium another time in Phillip Island.”
The win was Stoner’s third of the season and continues his late revival after victories at Aragon and Motegi over the past month, while Rossi and Lorenzo’s podium spots were enough to hand Yamaha the team championship with only two races rounds to go.
Stoner moved past Rossi into third in the championship standings behind second-placed Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, who withdrew from the race after qualifying due to discomfort with the collarbone he broke during the Japan round.
Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi also withdrew citing a groin injury sustained from a qualifying crash, while Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso of Italy was forced to retire during Sunday’s race due to a mechanical failure.
Pole-sitter Alex de Angelis of San Marino earlier won his first race of the season in the Moto2 category by edging out British Suter rider Scott Redding.
Andrea Iannone of Italy came third to shore up third place in the championship that was sewn up by Spaniard Toni Elias at Malaysia last week.
Derbi’s Marc Marquez posted his ninth win of the season from pole in the 125cc class to extend his championship lead to 12 points over Nicolas Terol, who finished third on an all-Spanish podium behind Pol Espargaro.
The series moves to Estoril, Portugal in a fortnight for the penultimate stop in the tour calendar.