Stoner masters rain to win British GP and head world championship

Australia's Casey Stoner defied terrible conditions to win an incident-filled British MotoGP yesterday and supplant defending champion Jorge Lorenzo at the top of the world championship standings.

Stoner, who started on pole, mastered a drenched Silverstone circuit to clinch a fourth victory in six rounds, becoming the first Honda rider to win three successive MotoGP races since Italian great Valentino Rossi in 2003.

The 2007 world champion moved 18 points ahead of Lorenzo, who was in holding second place when he crashed out on the eighth of 20 laps, seconds after teammate Ben Spies also fell.

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"It was really tough conditions," said Stoner, who was starting his 150th grand prix in all categories and was quickest in practice on Friday and Saturday. "Anything could have happened. We were quite lucky in this one that I stayed up and that Jorge had a crash."

Honda's Andrea Dovizioso was second, allowing the Italian to trim the gap to Lorenzo in the overall standings to 15 points, while Yamaha's Colin Edwards of the United States was third on his return from a broken collarbone.

Heavy rain, which left surface water across much of the 3.6 mile track, accounted for Honda's Marco Simoncelli on the tenth lap, the Italian rider skidding out as he applied the brakes on the approach to a corner. He was looking threatening in third place at that stage. "It was very difficult not to make a mistake in these conditions," Dovizioso said. "With the wet patches, it was difficult to find the line."

Stoner had been overtaken by Lorenzo by the first corner but retook the lead on the second lap and was rarely threatened after that. "At the beginning we didn't get a great start. But the bike felt good, and I waited for the tires to get up to temperature," Stoner said.

"In the first lap I had water in my visor, so for the first five or six laps I couldn't really see properly. I couldn't see any puddles. But finally the water went away, and I was able to do the lap times I wanted and open up a gap."

After Lorenzo crashed out, Dovizioso and Simoncelli were engaged in a close battle for second but the latter's error gave his compatriot some breathing space. Dovizioso finished more than 15 seconds behind Stoner.