Valentino Rossi has described the weather and surface conditions on the opening day of the 2008 edition of Wales Rally GB as 'quite a big disaster', as rain, snow and ice saw competitors' mileage significantly curtailed and two stages cancelled altogether.
That being the case, the six-time MotoGP World Champion admitted that he was happy to have made it to the end of the day with no scratches to his car, and in a respectable 24th position. It may have been a cautious start, but with accidents accounting for a number of runners, it was clearly the right approach to take.
“Like in New Zealand, we started very slowly to avoid making any mistakes at the beginning,” the Italian told Crash.net
in Swansea, alluding to his successful 2006 outing in the southern hemisphere, “and also because we have to cover a lot of kilometres [over the rally].
“The conditions were very difficult, the worst possible I think. We had a spin on the ice, but it wasn't a big moment. We were lucky, because we spun completely 360 degrees and came back in the right direction, so it was okay.
“We still managed to set some good stage times so we are happy, and on Saturday we will have some long stages so we'll see what happens.”
One overwhelming positive is that the man from Urbino has already got substantially further than he managed on his only previous WRGB appearance, when he crashed out on only the second stage six years ago. Getting ever-more comfortable in his Stobart VK M-Sport-run Ford Focus WRC, Rossi is confident of better conditions on day two – and of climbing some way higher up the leaderboard.
“For me it was a little bit tricky at the beginning,” the 29-year-old added in an end-of-day media gathering. “If you drive like you do on the track – trying to go at the maximum – for sure you will make mistakes, so you have to push a little bit less.
“The day wasn't easy for anybody, because the conditions were very much at the limit with ice, snow, rain, mud – it was quite a big disaster! It's been a lot more difficult than New Zealand, because on this rally it's quite easy to make mistakes, so we tried to control the car and improve step-by-step.
“I'm quite happy about my stage times, especially the second loop on stages five and six. We reached the end of the day with no damage to the car and, after covering more kilometres, on Saturday's long stages I think I will have a better feeling with it.”
by Russell Atkins