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Valentino Rossi 12th in Wales Rally GB
7 December 2008
MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has finished Wales Rally GB in twelfth position, having gained three more places during Sunday's third and final day.
Sunday's action consisted of just four stages but, once again, conditions remained challenging due to further icy weather overnight.
Rossi began the day in 15th place, a position he held by setting the 13th fastest time through Sunday's slippery opening stage at Rheola. "It was very slippery - there is lots of ice. But the stage was nice and fast, it felt much better than before. I'm just trying to go fast without falling off," said the Stobart driver, who lost the rear bumper of his Ford Focus WRC car.
The Doctor, aided by co-driver Carlo Cassina, then gained one position with his best stage performance of the event; an eleventh place during his first run through Port Talbot.
"It is a good stage and it looks like we are a bit faster today," said Valentino. "We enjoy and the conditions are not too bad. It is a long time from my last rally in New Zealand [in 2006] to now, but day by day and stage by stage my feeling improves so we are happy. I know I'm driving better than all rally. It's difficult, but to reach the finish will be a real achievement.”
Only a repeat of the Rheola and Port Talbot stages then stood between Rossi and his first Rally GB finish.
The 29-year-old was twelfth fastest through Rheola 2, moving him up to 13th overall, and went on to finish in style by matching his stage best of eleventh during the Port Talbot finale, whilst moving up to twelfth overall in the final standings.
Rossi had been just 45th after stage one of the event, but rose to 24th by the end of day one, 15th by the end of day two, before claiming his hard-earned twelfth at the completion of the 19th and final stage (two of which, on Friday, were cancelled).
The Italian therefore missed out on beating his eleventh place in the 2006 Rally of New Zealand finish by just one position, but conditions were far tougher in Wales and Rossi was at least able 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 crossed the finish line 13min 10.4sec behind 2008 Rally GB winner Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). Rossi's best stage placing in NZ was seventh.
Rossi finished ahead of six fellow WRC cars, while four drivers in the WRC class failed to finish. Rossi's Stobart Ford team-mates François Duval, Malcolm Wilson and Barry Clark finished sixth, ninth and tenth respectively. Clark (and a top ten finish) was two and a half minutes in front of Rossi, while the fourth Stobart car of Henning Solberg retired.
Speaking after finishing the final stage, Rossi couldn't hide his delight at conquering the event.
"I am so happy! I'm thrilled to be here at the end. That was great," smiled Rossi. "It has been a great weekend and we put in some good times on the last stages. It is a step by step process. I tried to understand the notes and the conditions and make no big mistakes and keep on learning. It's great to finish without any big mistakes in these conditions."
Aside from the satisfaction of reaching the finish of such a gruelling event, Rossi was also given the 'Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award'. The award is presented to 'any individual who exhibits the values for which the emirate is famous: respect, innovation, integrity and teamwork' and is also designed to recognise 'contribution to the sport'. The recipient of the award at each rally gets a trophy and an invitation to visit Abu Dhabi.
"I'm very proud to receive the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally award," said Rossi. "I think it is a great idea for Abu Dhabi to provide this and it helps to show the effort that people put into motorsport."
The 2008 Wales Rally GB was Rossi's third WRC event; he crashed a Peugeot 206 during the very first forest stage of his WRC debut, at Rally GB in 2002, before guiding a Subaru Impreza to his first WRC finish four years later in NZ.
Since the end of his latest title-winning MotoGP season, Rossi has finished second in the asphalt-based Monza Rally, set a creditable pace in a Ferrari F1 car, been fastest of all in the final MotoGP test session of 2008 and now finished twelfth in the final round of this year's World Rally Championship.
Rossi will be back on two wheels during the first official MotoGP test of 2009, to be held at Sepang in Malaysia from February 5-7.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
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).Sunday:Stage 16:
27.96km Rheola 1
13th (+1min 24.4sec), 15th overall
(+10min 56.9sec).Stage 17:
20.09km Port Talbot 1
11th (+48.9sec), 14th overall
(+11min 45.0sec).Stage 18:
27.96km Rheola 2
12th (+54.3sec), 13th overall
(+12min 30.1sec).Stage 19:
20.09km Port Talbot 2
11th (+42.5sec), 12th overall