Stoner clinches the 2011 title on home turf
Casey Stoner’s second MotoGP title was achieved in fantastic fashion on Sunday when the Repsol Honda rider secured the 2011 crown on the day of his 26th birthday and at his home race, the Iveco Australian Grand Prix, taking his ninth victory of the season.
The Australian dominated the weekend for the fifth year running, leading the race from start to finish, giving Honda their first MotoGP premier class title since 2006. The 26 year-old took the holeshot from pole position and never looked back as the rest of the field battled for positions.
With a strong breeze blowing and darkening skies, the MotoGP race commenced with a rearranged grid following the withdrawal of both Yamaha Factory riders and Héctor Barberá’s substitute Damian Cudlin on the Mapfre Aspar team. Jorge Lorenzo withdrew after a crash in the morning warm up left him with a severely injured finger requiring surgery, while Ben Spies was still mildly concussed after a crash in qualifying on Saturday. Cudlin withdrew due to injuries from a crash in Saturday morning practice.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) followed Stoner into turn one, with the Italian making an early move on Hayden to take second. Simoncelli then spent the remainder of the race tussling with Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), beating his compatriot across the line for his best MotoGP finish of second.
Dani Pedrosa was ten seconds adrift of team mate Dovizioso to finish fourth, making the top four bikes across the line all Hondas, while Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) inherited fifth place after first Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) and then Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) crashed out. Rossi fell after making a pass on Bautista, while the Suzuki man slipped toward the end of the race as rain began to fall.
The white flag had been shown on lap ten as scattered rain drops appeared, giving riders the option to swap bikes, though the rain did not start in earnest until the final couple of laps, when it claimed not only Bautista but then Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini).
Hayden was the first to enter the pits to change bikes, followed by Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing), though it did not help their finishing positions as Hayden ended the race seventh behind Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) despite the Frenchman having had an earlier off-track excursion, while Capirossi finished ninth behind Toni Elías (LCR Honda). The final race finisher was Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), who crossed the line in tenth.