Ford boss Malcolm Wilson is tipping MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi to finish in the top-ten on the Wales Rally GB next week.
Rossi, who recently finished second on the asphalt-based Monza Rally, has competed in the World Rally Championship just twice to date. Furthermore while his outing on the 2002 Rally GB in a Michelin-backed Peugeot 206 WRC didn't go well - he crashed out just 17 kilometres in - a run in New Zealand four years later was much more successful.
Indeed the eight-time world champion steered a Subaru Impreza WRC from 24th, to 13th and then 11th over the three days, setting a best stage time of seventh in the process.
Wilson believes that the Italian could better that overall result come the finish of the 'RAC' on December 7.
"It is fantastic [that Valentino will be competing in a Ford on Rally GB]. We are really delighted about the fact that we have got Valentino in a Stobart car. He did the Monza Rally recently and finished second overall and really acquitted himself very, very well with the car," Wilson told Crash.net Radio
"He would have probably had won the rally but he had a spin which cost him about 30 seconds and I think he lost the rally by about 20.
"Certainly from what we have seen from the testing up here he is very committed. He has got fantastic understanding of the car. It will be difficult for him given what the conditions could be like. But if it is dry and consistent I think he could definitely be a potential top-ten finisher."
Pressed on if he might be able to sneak into the top-eight and score a point, Wilson reiterated that it will all depend on the notoriously fickle Welsh weather, which could throw just about anything at the 86 competitors, 22 of whom will be in World Rally Cars.
"As I said, I think if the conditions are consistent and dry he can definitely squeeze into the top-ten. If it is wet, slippery and tricky then as we all know anything can happen," Wilson added.
"But he is certainly very committed to it and he definitely wants to achieve a good result. I know he wants to better the place he got in New Zealand [in 2006 - when he finished eleventh overall]. That is obviously top-ten and if he can do that I think it would be a remarkable result bearing in mind the competition that is going to be there."
by Rob Wilkins
TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MALCOLM WILSON: CLICK HERE