On the grid, Jorge Lorenzo looked to his left at Casey and saw he was on a brand new tire. Right,
thought Jorge, I have a couple of laps to get an advantage. He was wrong. Over the last four
Australian GPs at Phillip Island Casey Stoner has been headed for precisely one lap. And that
wasn't this year.
Frankly, no-one saw which way he went. The bike looked good from the first moments of free practice,
Casey was able to follow his usual pattern of very short runs in practice and qualifying, and there
was not even a hint of a problem with the front end. Nicky Hayden, still the lap-record holder, also
looked good despite a couple of small crashes, one in qualifying, one in warm up.
Once Casey had bolted with Jorge following him at a respectable distance, the race resolved itself
into a showdown between Rossi and Nicky for third place and another between Ben Spies and Marco
Simoncelli for fifthand to settle Rookie of the Year. No Repsol Hondas were involved; Pedrosa was
already on his way home and Andrea Dovizioso had to retire with steering-damper problems. Spies got
the better of Simoncelli, who had a great race and ran in third early on. Spies got past him coming
out of the final corner"The first time I passed anyone in a straight line this year." Super Sic's
style is very hard on his rear tyre... Ben might have been in that fight for third but for getting
pushed out at the first corner and then making a mistake all of his own at the same corner. He has
the consolation of being confirmed as Rookie of the Year and also top satellite rider.
The Rossi-Hayden dice was won by Valentino on the last lap with a typically tough pass at Honda.
He'd earlier passed Nicky with a shoulder charge at MG. No complaints from anyone by the way, it was
just good hard racing. Another fourth place is not what Nicky needed or wanted, and as usual he
blamed himself and apologized to the team.
Today was a reminder just how jaw-droppingly brilliant Stoner is when the team can get the bike
somewhere near right for him. Even Lorenzo had to give up any idea of catching him before half
distance. In two weeks time it is Estorila track where Lorenzo has obliterated the opposition in
previous years. Should be interesting.