Motorcycling: Stoner crash leaves Rossi on course for title

Valentino Rossi won the San Marino MotoGP yesterday to move a step closer to the world title after Australian world champion Casey Stoner crashed out of the race early on.

The Italian's Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was second, just over three seconds behind the winner, with Toni Elias of Spain third on his Ducati.

Ducati's Stoner, who started in pole position, was alone at the front when he slid off the track into the gravel and pulled out of the race. He had already crashed out of the Czech MotoGP in Brno two weeks ago.

The Italian rider capitalised on Stoner's exit, taking the lead and pulling away to equal Giacomo Agostini's record of 68 premier class victories.

Rossi, the seven-times world champion, leads the standings by 75 points from Stoner. Race winners gain 25 points and there are five races left in the season, with the next at Indianapolis on 14 September. "Agostini helped me to win," Rossi said. "Stoner was going very fast but I had a good feeling with my bike, then I saw him slipping."

Rossi's hometown of Tavullia is near the Misano track so he was roared on by thousands of fans, including the former Argentina football great Diego Maradona.

Honda's American rider Nicky Hayden missed his second race in a row due to a foot injury, after qualifying 16th on Saturday.

Spain's Honda rider Dani Pedrosa finished fourth to close the gap between himself and second-placed Stoner to two points. The Australian Chris Vermeulen, on a Suzuki, was fifth. Honda's Alex De Angelis of San Marino and his French team-mate Randy De Puniet fell off their bikes and did not finish the race.

In the 250cc class, Spain's Alvaro Bautista won the race on his Aprilia from the third row, followed by Honda's Yuri Takahashi of Japan. Spain's Hector Barbera was third.

Hungary's world champion Gabor Talmacsi won the 125cc to move up a place to third in the standings. Frenchman Mike di Meglio kept the overall lead despite falling from his Derbi.

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