MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi
has finished Wales Rally GB in twelfth position, having gained three more places during Sunday's third and final day.
Sunday's action consisted of just four stages but, once again, conditions remained challenging due to further icy weather overnight.
Rossi began the day in 15th place, a position he held by setting the 13th fastest time through Sunday's slippery opening stage at Rheola. "It was very slippery - there is lots of ice. But the stage was nice and fast, it felt much better than before. I'm just trying to go fast without falling off," said the Stobart driver, who lost the rear bumper of his Ford Focus WRC car.
The Doctor, aided by co-driver Carlo Cassina, then gained one position with his best stage performance of the event; an eleventh place during his first run through Port Talbot.
"It is a good stage and it looks like we are a bit faster today," said Valentino. "We enjoy and the conditions are not too bad. It is a long time from my last rally in New Zealand [in 2006] to now, but day by day and stage by stage my feeling improves so we are happy. I know I'm driving better than all rally. It's difficult, but to reach the finish will be a real achievement.”
Only a repeat of the Rheola and Port Talbot stages then stood between Rossi and his first Rally GB finish.
The 29-year-old was twelfth fastest through Rheola 2, moving him up to 13th overall, and went on to finish in style by matching his stage best of eleventh during the Port Talbot finale, whilst moving up to twelfth overall in the final standings.
Rossi had been just 45th after stage one of the event, but rose to 24th by the end of day one, 15th by the end of day two, before claiming his hard-earned twelfth at the completion of the 19th and final stage (two of which, on Friday, were cancelled).
The Italian therefore missed out on beating his eleventh place in the 2006 Rally of New Zealand finish by just one position, but conditions were far tougher in Wales and Rossi was at least able to finish much closer to the rally winner than he had been in NZ.
The eight-time world champion was 20min 38.8sec behind Marcus Gronholm in 2006, but crossed the finish line 13min 10.4sec behind 2008 Rally GB winner Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). Rossi's best stage placing in NZ was seventh.