October 5, 2008 Last year's world champ Casey Stoner led from pole to clinch victory in the Australian MotoGP today, but most of the excitement lay behind him as Valentino Rossi cut a swathe through the field from his 12th-place grid position, slipping past Nicky Hayden on the final lap to finish second.

While Pedrosa, Dovizioso, De Angelis and Vermeulen all ran into trouble on lap one, Hayden stuck close behind Stoner and looked as if he might threaten his 2009 Ducati teammate until around lap 10 when he finally dropped off the Aussie’s tail.

Stoner’s victory, combined with Pedrosa’s first-lap DNF, gives the Aussie a good chance of a second-place championship finish and bodes well for 2009 - but the question remains: would he have held onto first place if it was Valentino Rossi tightening the screws and not Nicky Hayden?

See TheBikerGene for the full story and more pics.

Loz Blain