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Full GP Review: Australian Grand Prix

Full GP Review: Australian Grand Prix

Video footage from the Australian Grand Prix weekend, as it happened.

A week on from the confirmation of Valentino Rossi´s winning the 2008 MotoGP World Championship, there was still plenty of intrigue at the Australian Grand Prix. Far from a dead rubber clash, there was the small matter of home pride at stake for three MotoGP riders, with Chris Vermeulen giving a guide to the Phillip Island circuit in the run-up to his local race.

The most famous Australian participating in the weekend´s action was of course 2007 MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner, who made the trip home straight from Japan via Melbourne. He joined the likes of Vermeulen and Jorge Lorenzo in meeting fans and signing autographs, before the serious business began at `The Island´.

The new title holder was alongside Stoner once more in the Thursday press conference, in which he reflected on his 2008 achievements and enviable record Down Under. The Fiat Yamaha rider also passed comment on the introduction of a single tyre rule for 2009, with the deadline to a submit a tender set for the weekend of the Australian Grand Prix.

Amidst the cold, wet conditions that always threaten the Phillip Island track, the activities began in earnest with the first MotoGP Free Practice session. Under dry conditions it was Stoner who headed the standings, whilst in Free Practice 2 it was 2005 & 2006 poleman Nicky Hayden who was the man on the pace in the wet, although he had not been at his most comfortable in the dry.

Whilst the outgoing MotoGP champ was showing his stuff on track, the legacies of more Australian legends were also being celebrated over the course of the weekend. The likes of Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner were awarded special replica MotoGP trophies in a special ceremony, also attended by current star Stoner.

Himself a former titlist, Hayden had found his dry form by Saturday morning. The American was once again the quickest man on track before midday, and was pushing for pole position in the afternoon qualifying session. In the end a scorching late lap from Stoner gave him his latest pole, something that surprised even the rider himself.

Rossi would start the race from twelfth on the grid -his first time off the front row at Phillip Island since 2002- and with a sore neck after an awkward fall in qualifying. A night of massages and medicine were on the menu for the Italian, who had no intention of missing the race.

Enjoying his time on track more than the Fiat Yamaha man was MotoGP Legend Doohan, who performed some demonstration laps for the crowd and cast his eye over the day´s events. Off-track, the Grand Prix Commission had received a proposal from Bridgestone to supply tyres for the entire MotoGP grid in 2009 -rivals Michelin announcing that they would not be bidding for the opportunity.

The crowd were treated to some fine weather and one of the best races of the season on Sunday afternoon, with home hero Stoner repeating his 2007 triumph with a fantastic performance. Also astounding was Rossi, who made his way through battles with James Toseland, Jorge Lorenzo and eventual third place finisher Hayden in order to take second place from the fourth row of the grid. Dani Pedrosa´s early crash also meant that Stoner went one step closer to clinching the runner-up spot in the World Championship.

With matters close to resolution in the classification, things were also becoming clearer for 2009. Alice Team rider Toni Elias had been confirmed earlier in the week as a returnee to the San Carlo Honda Gresini fold for next season, whilst another seat that the Spaniard had been tipped for -a third Kawasaki bike- was confirmed as having been rubber stamped by Competition Manager Michael Bartholemy.


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