Moments after reaching the finish of Wales Rally GB on Sunday, MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi expressed his desire to return in 2009.
Rossi banished the demons of his embarrassing 2002 Rally GB exit, when he crashed out on the very first forest stage, by rising from 45th to 12th on his 2008 return to one of the toughest rounds on the World Rally calendar.
"I would love to come back next year if that is possible, but that is not decided yet," revealed the Italian superstar, who drove a Stobart Ford Focus WRC car. "I have really enjoyed this rally, especially when we got some fast times [on Sunday] and hopefully we will get a chance to work again together with Stobart."
Rossi can be assured of a warm welcome should he ever return to the Stobart WRC team.
"There has been so much excitement with Valentino in the team and his presence here has been a massive boost to the squad; his times today have been remarkable," praised Stobart team principal Malcolm Wilson.
"Valentino's presence has really raised our game and he has been an inspiration to everyone in the team," added Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler.
Rossi's march up the leaderboard in such a gruelling event - which saw rain, ice, snow and fog - also impressed his Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio, present in Wales and himself an occasional rally competitor.
"Valentino started carefully and was getting used to the rally. By the end he was much closer to the top and on one stage quicker than [team-mate] Wilson, so he reached his targets," said Brivio.
Rossi will remain a Yamaha MotoGP rider for at least the next two seasons, but even Brivio couldn't help wondering what Rossi could achieve if he made a full time switch to the WRC.
"It would be interesting to see what he could do if he did all the rounds of the championship," he said. "Even now he's working on his notes, getting them right and trying to understand how to describe what's ahead.”
Rossi finished Rally GB 13min 10.4sec behind event winner Sebastien Loeb (Citroen), which was seven minutes closer to the top than he'd been in his previous WRC outing at the 2006 Rally of New Zealand. On that occasion, The Doctor finished in eleventh position.
Rossi, who recently returned to the wheel of a Ferrari F1 car, has frequently hinted that he could switch to rallying after MotoGP.