MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi was ranked 17th fastest out of the 21 WRC-class cars during Thursday's shakedown test for Wales Rally GB.

The Italian, driving a Stobart-backed Ford Focus RS WRC car, completed the 3.90 kilometre test stage in Penllergaer Forest, 18 kilometres north of the service park in Swansea, in a best time of a 2min 41.7sec.

Mikko Hirvonen, driving for the official BP Ford Abu Dhabi team, was fastest of all in a time of 2min 25.6sec, which was 0.9sec faster than Subaru's Petter Solberg.

Rossi's realistic target this weekend is to try and beat his previous best WRC finish of eleventh, in the 2006 Rally of New Zealand. The tenth fastest driver on the shakedown test was Citroen's Sebastien Ogier in a time of 2min 30.6sec.

The ceremonial start of Wales Rally GB, the final round of the 2008 World Rally Championship, takes place today at 18.00 hours in Cardiff. The action then begins on Friday with eight stages, totalling around 124 competitive kilometres.

Rossi's WRC debut, in the 2002 edition of Wales Rally GB, ended on the very first forest stage.

Stage one of the 2008 event, a 19.10 kilometre run through Hafren, begins at 9.08am local time.