Motorsport: Rossi returns to four wheels

15 Nov, 2006 (All day) Jonathan Gill

Valentino Rossi has turned his back on F1, but the MotoGP champ hasn’t lost his appetite to compete on four wheels

Last week, the 27-year-old put a DTM Mercedes through its paces. And this weekend, he’s in New Zealand, contesting the penultimate round of this year’s World Rally Championship in a works-prepared Subaru Impreza.

In an embarrassingly brief one-off WRC appearance four years ago, Rossi crashed his Peugeot on the opening morning of the Welsh rally. He’s keen to keep a very low profile this time, so few details of his latest rallying adventure have been confirmed. But we know his Impreza will be run by Prodrive – the outfit behind the official Subaru factory team – and that the London-based Italian recently tested the car in Britain. Rossi has also secured special dispensation to run with his beloved 46 starting number, which he has used throughout his career, despite the usual system where the reigning world champion takes the number 1 plate. “Valentino has always been interested in rallying,” said Pro­drive boss David Richards.

“While there’s been all the talk about him going to Formula One, he’s always said to us that if he was not racing a motorcycle, he wanted to be in rallying. Who knows? In a few more years, we might see him take a permanent place in the rally championship,” he added.

Rossi himself remains undecided over any long-term plans. “I don’t know yet if I’m ever going to contest races on four wheels. But it’s good to know that I wouldn’t look too bad if I did so,” he said, after im-pressing in last week’s DTM test.

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