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Aoyama still on course as Australia approaches

Aoyama still on course as Australia approaches

Marco Simoncelli gave himself an outside chance of defending his 250cc world title with his win at Estoril, but Hiroshi Aoyama could clinch the crown from the Italian in Australia depending on where the Metis Gilera rider and his other rivals finish at Phillip Island.

The Italian appeared to be out of what looked like a two-horse race for the World Championship between Aoyama and Álvaro Bautista prior to the last race in Portugal, but a crash for Bautista and a fourth-placed finish for the consistent Aoyama saw title holder Simoncelli back in with a slim chance - as the 250cc championship nears its denouement.

Aoyama’s lead in the championship standings was extended to 26 points over Mapfre Aspar man Bautista, while Simoncelli – whose win brought up the 199th victory for Italian riders in the 250cc class – is now just two points behind the second-placed Spaniard having claimed his fifth win of the year.

The scene is set perfectly for the Australian GP now with Simoncelli and Bautista both holding good records at the circuit. Bautista has finished second in both his 250cc races to date at Phillip Island and won the 125cc contest in 2006, whilst his Italian rival won there last year on his way to the title. Aoyama’s DNF last year means the Japanese leader will be keen to maintain the form that has seen him finish outside the top four on just two occasions so far this season, with third in 2006 on a 250cc KTM his best result on the track to date.

Aoyama could end the race for the crown early though if he secures his first-ever win at Phillip Island, but if he manages to do so the Scot Racing rider would need Bautista to finish no higher than 16th, Simoncelli 14th or lower, and Héctor Barberá (Pepe World Team) to fail to come in second. If that scenario does not play out, Aoyama knows he needs 50 points from the remaining three races – including Australia – irrespective of other riders’ results in order to take the world title.

Barberá (Pepe World Team) lies a further 16 points behind Simoncelli in the overall standings and he will be eager to correct a chequered history at Phillip Island, where he did not feature last year due to a back injury, while he suffered a DNF the season before. First place at Misano this year was followed up by a podium in the shape of third spot at Estoril though, so Barberá will feel that the time is right to register a notable result.

And Mattia Pasini also has a less than formidable record at Phillip Island, but will look to his third-place podium finish in 125cc from 2006 for inspiration as he bids to make a strong finish to the season.

250cc, 2009, Iveco AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

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