Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi finished a strong second in an entertaining Australian Grand Prix, chasing home Casey Stoner to finish on the podium for the tenth successive year at Phillip Island and for the eleventh time this season. Jorge Lorenzo’s challenge ended in the gravel trap at turn one, when a mistake at the start saw the Mallorcan slide out of the race. Rossi, starting from the front row for the tenth race in a row, finished the first lap in third position, behind Dani Pedrosa and Stoner. On lap two both Stoner and Rossi passed the Spaniard and then quickly began to pull away on their own, quickly opening out a gap from the chasing pack. Darkening skies overhead at that point meant there was a rush in pit lane as the mechanics switched the spare bikes over to wet settings, but the sun eventually came out and the threat of rain subsided as the Italian and the Australian set in for a head-to-head battle. At times Rossi looked to be within striking distance and he made a couple of moves at mid-race distance, but with Lorenzo out he knew that he had to capitalise and he eventually played it safe to come home behind the resurgent Stoner with twenty important points in his pocket and an impressive gap of over twenty seconds to Pedrosa in third.
Lorenzo had struggled with grip issues all weekend here and he made a mistake at the start, braking too late and cannoning into the back of Nicky Hayden. The impact damaged his front brake and he was unable to slow down for the corner, losing the rear and tumbling into the gravel trap. He was taken to the Clinica Mobile and treated for mild cuts to his nose and the little finger of his right hand, but there were no serious injuries and nothing that will affect his being able to ride next week.
Today’s result means that Rossi now has a lead over Lorenzo of 38 points with two races left. He will have his first chance to clinch the World Championship title at the next round, which comes at Sepang in Malaysia in one week’s time.
Valentino Rossi – Position: 2ndTime: +1.935
“This was one of the most fun and definitely one of the most important second places of my career! We were on the limit for the whole race and there were some amazing slides, it was ‘old-style’ racing. To have a race like this in the sunshine at Phillip Island is an incredible emotion and I really enjoyed myself. Of course I wanted to win but I had to use my head a bit and once I’d seen that Lorenzo was out, I knew that if I made a mistake it would be a big disaster! Anyway I tried in places but Stoner was a bit faster than me. I didn’t give up until the end but Casey really deserved this win; I want to give him my congratulations. We leave with twenty important points and now the championship lead is big and we can try to finish it in Malaysia, where we will have the first ‘match point’.”
Jorge Lorenzo – Position: DNF
“I’m a little bit sad for this crash, not for the championship but for my mistake; I didn’t expect this kind of mistake from myself. It was totally my fault, I miscalculated the distance off the line and Nicky braked earlier than I was expecting and I hit him. I thought I could save it but my front brake was broken and so when I tried to brake for the corner I couldn’t and the rear made a big slide. I have a bit of damage to my nose and my finger but it could have been a lot worse. This is what happens in racing and, although I am disappointed about the race, the most important thing is that I am not badly injured. I want to say sorry to Nicky because I ruined his race today. As for the points, the title was a long shot anyway and now I just want to look forward to the final two races.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“This has been a very important day for our championship because now we’re leaving with a lead of 38 points. It is a pity that Lorenzo crashed, because who knows what kind of race this could have been with him in it as well? Valentino today rode with a big heart and a lot of fight, trying to win the race but also making sure he didn’t lose these twenty points. He tried hard but never went over the top. The team did a great job as well this weekend to make this possible and we have to carry this same concentration and motivation forward to Sepang next weekend, where we will be aiming for the maximum possible result.”
Daniele Romagnoli – Team Manager
“For sure we weren’t expecting a result like this, even after such a difficult weekend! We have found a lot more problems here than we were expecting but in the end the team were able to make a good step for warm-up and another improvement for the race, so we missed a chance to fight for the podium today. It just wasn’t to be this weekend. The championship is basically finished for us now but we will look forward to the last two races and continue as we were before. At the end of the day, we’re lucky that Jorge didn’t pick up worse injuries in a crash like this so we will count ourselves lucky and move on to Malaysia.”
Fantastic fifth for Edwards, Toseland frustrated in Phillip Island
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team duo Colin Edwards and James Toseland had a day of contrasting fortunes at the spectacular Phillip Island circuit in Australia this afternoon.
Starting from fifth on the grid for the fifth successive race, Edwards made a slow getaway off the line and dropped down to ninth on the first lap in front of 50,094 fans. The Texan then produced a magnificent exhibition in overtaking to first pass Andrea Dovizioso on lap four. Setting a fast pace after pre-race tweaks with the set-up of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 helped with stability and agility, the 35-year-old then superbly passed Mika Kallio, Toni Elias and Ran dy de Puniet in quick succession on lap five.
Edwards then set about closing the gap on Alex de Angelis in fourth position, but despite consistently lapping faster than the San Marino rider throughout the race, his hard challenge was in vain. His seventh top six finish of 2009 though boosted his hopes of overhauling Dovizioso for fifth place in the championship standings. With just two races remaining, Edwards is just seven points behind the Italian.
It was a frustrating afternoon for British rider Toseland, who had started the 27-lap race optimistic of claiming a second successive top six finish at Phillip Island.
Toseland was locked in the intense battle for fifth place when Race Direction imposed a ride through penalty after the 28-year-old was adjudged to have jumped the start. Toseland entered the pits on lap 10 and gallantly rode a hard pace in the second half of t he race to almost fight his way back into a creditable 13th place, finishing just 0.034s behind Gabor Talmacsi.
Colin Edwards – Position: 5thTime: +0’35.885
“I’ll hold my hands up and say I really messed up the start. I pretty much fell asleep and when the lights went out, I was just sat there. That left me down in ninth place but the pace was pretty quick in the low 31s and I was able to pick off a few of them quite quickly. I knew if I didn’t get my head down then I’d be towing them around because of how you can slipstream at this track. I never relented and my pace was pretty hot, and thankfully it wasn’t too difficult for me to make a break from the pack. I saw de Angelis in front of me and I tried everything I could to get close to him. I’m tired of finishing fifth, so I gave it everything I had. But the start cost me fourth and some precious points. Towards the end of the race I star ted to lose some side grip and I couldn’t do anything more to try and put pressure on de Angelis. I beat Dovizioso again which is all I can do to try and get fifth in the championship. I really want that fifth to reward all my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. They’ve been great and I’ll be giving it my all for them in the last two races.”
James Toseland – Position: 14thTime: +1’17.985
“I’m really struggling to describe how I feel right now. All I can say is I feel the jump start decision was incredibly harsh and I am extremely disappointed. I have looked at the start on TV and I can’t see I’ve done anything wrong. It is hard for me to take but I’ve got to try and put it behind me as soon as possible and aim for a strong result in Sepang next weekend. I was confident of a strong race today and I was latched onto the back of the group fighting for fifth. I felt my pace was strong enough to hav e put up a strong fight for a positive result, but the ride through ended all that. I want to thank all my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 for all their hard work and effort this weekend. They have been brilliant as always and I’m not going to let this disappointment stop me from giving my all to finish this season on a high at the last two races.”
Herve Poncharal – Team Manager
“It was another very strong weekend from Colin and he rode another hard race. Had he made a better start then I’m convinced he would have been able to fight with de Angelis for fourth place. His lap times were better than Alex for most of the race and it would have been a good battle. Unfortunately we only gained one point on Dovizioso, but Colin is still fighting hard for fifth in the championship and there is still a lot to fight for. With James, I understand his frustration. I went with him to Race Direction to look at the start and honestly speaking, it was a very marginal decision. We have to respect the decision of Race Direction and I am convinced that James will bounce back strongly in Malaysia next weekend.”