After keeping everyone guessing as to whether he would take part in the four-wheel ice races that end the Wrooom Ferrari/Ducati Press event, MotoGP star Valentino Rossi did take to the track - but it was Fernando Alonso who emerged victorious.
Rossi's participation was in doubt right up until the last moment due to shoulder surgery in mid-November and negative comments earlier this week about the speed of his recovery, which Rossi said could take until April/May.
But in the end the seven time MotoGP champion, making his first official appearance in Ducati team colours in Madonna di Campiglio, couldn't resist the lure of some racing action and joined team-mate Nicky Hayden in facing Ferrari F1 race drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa (plus an assortment of test drivers) in karts and then Fiat 500s.
Of special interest was the rivalry between multiple world champions Rossi and Alonso, which has been brewing since Rossi's F1 tests in 2006 and could lead to a special end-of-2011 racing challenge between them (see separate story).
It was definitely a case of first blood to Alonso at Wrooom, after the Spaniard took an emphatic double victory on ice, starting with a win over Massa and Hayden - last year's surprise winner - in the kart race, while Rossi survived some scary moments on his way to fifth.
Those results were then used to set the grid for the Fiat 500 race, which saw Alonso keep his advantage for a second victory - despite a safety car period - with Hayden again doing an impressive job, this time in second, and Rossi third.
“This week has been a spectacular event, and the races at the end were a lot of fun,” said Rossi. “In the end, I decided to take part because the atmosphere here at Wrooom was so fantastic, and because the fans deserved it. I got a few jolts from the holes, but nothing too bad. It was worth it.”
"This was my third Wrooom, and I think it was the best one yet," stated Hayden. "It seems like they just make it better every year. They really treat us good, and we make a lot of friends, and it's great to see them each year. This is a great way to kick things off, but there's been enough talking about everything now. It's time to get out there and do the real thing. I look forward to it."
Rossi and Hayden will be back on track on two-wheels when 2011 MotoGP testing starts at Sepang on February 1.