Reigning six-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has finished day two of Wales Rally GB in 15th position, an impressive nine places higher than his ranking at the end of day one.

Rossi, driving a Stobart-run Ford Focus WRC car, began the day by posting the 20th, 17th and 16th fastest times on the opening three stages - moving him quickly up from 24th on Friday to 16th in the overall standings.

The Italian explained that he found Saturday's longer stages much more suited to his driving style and was able to get into a good rhythm. Crucially in such a punishing event, Rossi also made no mistakes - this morning at least.

"The first stage felt really good for me. There was some frost but less ice than yesterday," said Rossi, driving alongside Carlo Cassina. "The other two stages were more loose with some rocks and gravel but I'm enjoying it much more today and we have a good rhythm with the car."

Those same three stages - Resolfen, Halfway and Crychan - were then repeated in the afternoon.

"We go a lot faster than the first time," said Rossi after holding his 16th overall during the second Resolfen run. "We are happy - this stage is fantastic! We try to get a good speed and I am getting a good feeling with the car."

However, the following Halfway and Crychan stages proved much more 'eventful'.

"I don't like that stage at all - I'm glad it's over," admitted Rossi after his second run through Halfway, when he set the 20th fastest stage time. "I got stuck behind car 23 and held up."

That hold-up meant that, for the first time, Rossi dropped a position in the standings, but he was able to regain 16th overall through Crychan - despite an accident.

"It is so slippy and a lot of ice. We went too fast into a corner and overshot it which smashed the front of the car and cracked the windscreen but it is OK," explained The Doctor, who crashed out of the 2002 edition of Rally GB on the very first forest stage.

Having survived the final proper stage of the second day, Rossi then settled his nerves with a best yet 12th place during the short Cardiff 'super special', held inside the Millennium Stadium. The result helped move Rossi up to 15th position at the end of day two.

"The big mover today has been Valentino who has jumped nine positions up the leaderboard to 15th," highlighted Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson. "It is fantastic to see his pace has improved as he is now getting used to the conditions."

"I'm really enjoying this rally and I have settled in more than the first day," confirmed Rossi. "The Focus feels very good now and my times are improving with every stage and that was my main aim for this rally."

Rossi heads into the final day almost exactly one-minute behind 14th place and nearly five minutes behind tenth position (held by team-mate Matthew Wilson).

That means the #46 will almost certainly need to benefit from retirements ahead of him if he is to better his eleventh place finish on his previous WRC appearance, during the less challenging 2006 Rally of New Zealand.

Nevertheless, Rossi is on target 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 he is presently only 9min 37.6sec behind Rally GB leader Jari-Matti Latvala.

The 2008 Wales Rally GB concludes with four new stages on Sunday - and the warning of further wintery weather overnight.

"Tomorrow will be a very difficult day judging by the weather forecast, but hopefully the Stobart crews will all make it to the finish ramp," said Wilson.

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 (+34.5sec), 45th overall (+34.5sec). Stage 3: 18.28km Myherin 1 33rd (+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 (+16.8sec), 30th overall (+2min 3.9sec). Stage 6: 18.28km Myherin 2 15th (+1min 4.9sec), 26th overall (+3min 4.6sec). Stage 7: 2.29km Walters Arena 1 25th (+12.9sec), 24th overall (+3min 17.5sec). Stage 8: 2.29km Walters Arena 2 30th (+11.4sec), 24th overall (+3min 28.0sec).

Saturday: Stage 9: 30.68km Resolfen 1 20th (+1min 40.8sec), 19th overall (+4min 37.4sec). Stage 10: 18.57km Halfway 1 17th (+59.0sec), 17th overall (+5min 36.4sec). Stage 11: 14.86km Crychan 1 16th (+36.7sec), 16th overall (+6min 8.9sec). Stage 12: 30.68km Resolfen 2 18th (+1min 37.3sec), 16th overall (+7min 30.2sec). Stage 13:18.57km Halfway 2 20th (+1min 13.3sec), 17th overall (+8min 37.5sec). Stage 14: 14.86km Crychan 2 17th (+1min 00.5sec), 16th overall (+9min 38.0sec). Stage 15: 0.99km Cardiff 1 12th (+3.1sec), 15th overall (+9min 37.6sec).

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment