MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi was just 45th fastest after the opening stage of Wales Rally GB, but had improved his position to 24th by the end of a treacherous opening day.

Adverse weather conditions saw Friday's schedule reduced from a planned total of 123.68 competitive kilometres to just 57.04 before the day had even begun.

That was shortened further when Hafren, due to be run twice on Friday - as stage one and then stage four - was cancelled on both occasions due to the amount of ice present.

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The six stages that did run competitively provided a tough test for even the WRC's finest.

Rossi, having crashed out of the very first forest stage on his WRC debut at the 2002 Rally GB, must have felt considerable pressure as he returned to the unforgiving welsh forests, but this time he was able to conquer the conditions.

Rossi, driving a Stobart-backed Ford Focus WRC car alongside co-driver Carlo Cassina, had climbed to 34th overall after stage three, then 30th after stage five and 26th after stage six. The last two stages of the day, a short 2.29km double run through Walters Arena saw Rossi gain two more positions to end the day in 24th overall.

"The condition of the stages this afternoon were bad with the fog and rain but not as bad as the ice from the morning," revealed Rossi. "We improved very much our stage times from the first pass so that has been a very positive improvement. The longer stages are better for me as I can get into a good rhythm and it starts to feel quite good; the car is really fun to drive."

The Doctor's best stage position on day one was 15th on stage six, the second run through the 18.28km Myherin test. Rossi was particularly pleased with that result, since his time was 21.6sec faster than it had been in the morning.

Rossi presently sits 3min 28.0sec behind rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala (BP Ford) and is just under two minutes away from tenth placed team-mate Matthew Wilson.

Rossi's previous WRC outing, during far kinder conditions in the 2006 Rally of New Zealand, saw the eight-time world champion finish an impressive eleventh.

On that occasion Rossi was also holding 24th position after day one, before progressing to 13th during day two and eleventh after day three. Rossi set a best stage time of seventh during the event.

Weather permitting, Saturday is scheduled to see a full day's action covering 129 kilometres of stage distance, including the Cardiff Super Special in the Millennium Stadium.

Valentino Rossi - 2008 Rally GB:

Friday: Stage 1: 3.67km Hafren 1 Cancelled due to amount of ice. Stage 2: 4.28km Sweet Lamb 1 45th on stage (+34.5sec), 45th overall (+34.5sec). Stage 3: 18.28km Myherin 1 33rd on stage (+1min 23.8sec), 34th overall (+1min 51.1sec). Stage 4:3.67km Hafren 2 Cancelled due to amount of ice. Stage 5: 4.28km Sweet Lamb 2 24th on stage (+16.8sec), 30th overall (+2min 3.9sec). Stage 6: 18.28km Myherin 2 15th on stage (+1min 4.9sec), 26th overall (+3min 4.6sec). Stage 7: 2.29km Walters Arena 1 25th on stage (+12.9sec), 24th overall (+3min 17.5sec). Stage 8: 2.29km Walters Arena 2 30th on stage (+11.4sec), 24th overall (+3min 28.0sec).