Stoner clinches title with Australian win

Stoner clinches title with Australian win

Stoner clinches title with Australian win

Australian Grand Prix was Honda rider Casey Stoner’s 32nd career win and he becomes the first rider to repeat in the 800cc MotoGP class since it moved up from 500cc. AFP photo

Casey Stoner won his fifth straight Australian Grand Prix and clinched his second MotoGP series championship, both while celebrating his 26th birthday Sunday.

The Australian Honda rider was helped in his championship cause when his nearest rival Jorge Lorenzo of Spain crashed in the warmup, losing part of the tip of his ring finger on his left hand. With Lorenzo unable to start, it meant Stoner needed only to finish better than sixth to clinch the MotoGP title he first won in 2007.

“It’s not the way you want to win a championship,” Stoner said of Lorenzo’s morning demise. “But we had a lot of momentum going into the race. To win a fifth race here, a series title, and on my birthday, nothing gets better than today.”

Gresini Honda’s Marco Simoncelli finished second, ahead of Stoner’s teammate Andre Dovizioso, with the two switching positions twice over the final two laps.

Stoner won his fourth straight pole at Phillip Island on Saturday and led from start to finish Sunday, holding a four-second lead for most of the second half of the race on the 4.445-kilometer (2.76-mile) Phillip Island circuit

He finished in a time of 42 minutes, 2.425 seconds, 2.2 seconds ahead of Simoncelli and 2.4 in front of Dovizioso. Dani Pedrosa of Spain was fourth on a Honda, 13 seconds behind, and American Colin Edwards fifth on a Yamaha, nearly 31 seconds behind Stoner. Ducati’s seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi of Italy crashed out on lap 13.

It was tense at the end of the race when heavy rain began falling with about three laps left. While several riders pitted to switch to bikes with a wet-weather setup, Stoner played it conservatively while at least four other drivers crashed in the wet. “I nearly came off the track ... I was pretty lucky to stay on at that point because I was the first person to hit that wall of rain,” Stoner told Australian Associated Press.

“We had that first cloud pass over us with a few spits and we were able to keep our advantage there, but when it hit the second time, it didn’t look that dark. I’ve gone into that last turn and as soon as I’ve cracked that throttle again, the rear came around and my heart was up in my throat. I took it very gingerly the last lap just to bring it home.”

It was Stoner’s 32nd career win and he becomes the first rider to repeat in the 800cc MotoGP class since it moved up from 500cc. He joined five-time winner Mick Doohan as Australians to win multiple titles in the sport’s premier class.

Victory in final lap

In Moto2, Alex de Angelis of San Marino overtook championship leader Stefan Bradl on the final lap to win.

Pole sitter De Angelis, riding a Motobi, finished in 39 minutes, 44.774 seconds, just under 1.4 seconds faster than Germany’s Bradl after the two made contact on the final lap. Marc Marquez of Spain, on a Suter, was third, 6.3 seconds behind the winner.

Bradl continues to lead the championship with two rounds to go with 254 points, just three ahead of Marquez. Andrea Iannone of Italy, who finished eighth Sunday, is third overall with 165 points, followed by de Angelis with 157.

In the 125cc race, Sandro Cortese of Germany, riding an Aprilia, claimed his second victory in six starts after taking 109 races to win his first.

Cortese, who started second, had a lead of about 10 seconds when rain brought out the red flag to stop the 23-lap race with three laps to go. Luis Salom of Spain, also on an Aprilia and who started 10th on the grid, was second, followed by polesitter Johan Zarco of France on a Derbi.