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Rossi gets title shot at Phillip Island

Rossi gets title shot at Phillip Island

Rossi gets title shot at Phillip Island

Valentino Rossi gets his first chance to win the 2004 MotoGP World Championship this weekend at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia.

With his lead over Sete Gibernau at the top of the standings extended to 30 points after his seventh win of the season in Malaysia on Sunday, Rossi can complete a successful defence of his crown in the penultimate round of the season by finishing in the top two positions at a circuit where he has won on five previous occasions, including the last three seasons in the premier-class.

Whilst Daniel Pedrosa can also be crowned World Champion this weekend, the young Spaniard needing just two points to seal the 250cc title, the main focus will be on the climax to Rossi's historic charge for glory on the Yamaha.

Having made the switch from Honda at the end of last season, Rossi became the first man ever to win consecutive MotoGP races on different brands of machinery in the opening round in South Africa and now looks set to be the only rider other than Eddie Lawson to win the title for different manufacturers in consecutive seasons.

Yamaha have not celebrated the World Championship since Wayne Rainey won his third title in 1992 and even the legendary American could not manage more than seven wins in a season – a record he shares with Lawson.

The temptation to break that record and a penchant for celebrating championship success with a victory, as he did with a last-lap win over Max Biaggi at this circuit in 2001, when second place would have been enough, should see Rossi aim for the top step of the podium once again.

Gibernau, meanwhile, is aiming for his first ever podium at Phillip Island – a result which, even if it is not enough to stop Rossi in the rider standings, would seal the constructors' title for Honda. The Japanese factory need a top three result from any one of their six riders to win the championship for the sixteenth time, the same number of titles won by MV-Agusta.

The only non-Honda win at Phillip Island was by Yamaha in 2000 with Max Biaggi, who made the opposite switch between factories to Rossi almost two years ago. Biaggi's factory colleague Alex Barros, who today joined fellow rider Ruben Xaus on a visit to The Koorie Heritage Trust, an Aboriginal arts centre in Melbourne, will look to repeat his podium here from 2002 after finishing third at Sepang on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Ducati rider Troy Bayliss will be out to break up the Japanese factory feud at his home track, where he won both World Superbike races in 2002. Bayliss, who made his Grand Prix debut in the 250cc race here in 1997, crashed out of the race last year after leading in the opening stages.

The riders will go head-to-head at a new-look Phillip Island circuit, which has undergone a A$2 million safety facelift jointly funded by the Victorian Government and the new circuit owner, Linfox. The circuit was already homologated for this year's Grand Prix but the upgrade was done in consultation and co-operation with the MotoGP Safety Commission because of the significant increase in performance of the new-generation four-stroke bikes.


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