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Rossi's achieves his goals in New Zealand rally

Rossi swaps two wheels for four at the WRC New Zealand rally

VALENTINO Rossi, the multiple MotoGP World Champion, achieved his first goal in his exploration into into four wheels by completing the first day of the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship.

The seven-time world motorcycling champion made a smooth start in his special black Subaru, determined not to repeat his first day exit in his only other rally experience four years ago in the Rally GB of Wales.

Although seeded 11th, he finished the opening day 24th overall, 10:55.1 behind the leading Ford of Finland's Marcus Gronholm, but most importantly still in the event. Gronholm punctured a tyre on the opening stage when he clipped a pole and ploughed his Ford through a fence but regained his composure to open up a commanding 31sec lead at the end of day one. Gronholm had this to say of Rossi's rally appearance: "On a rallycross track maybe he can be as quick as me, but in the forest it will be different. He has no experience. He must listen to his co-driver, but cannot trust him straight away and it will not work. He can handle the car, but he doesn't have the experience. I'm sorry, but that's my opinion."

Rossi spun out briefly during the first stage but that was his only scare as he opted to drive within his limited four-wheeled capabilities. "I had a little bit of a spin, it was more slippery than I thought, I was very cautious," said Rossi, who preferred to stick to the middle of the road when possible in a morning session complicated by steady overnight rain. The second stage, over 43.88km, was a test of his ability.

Rossi ended the day 13th in his Subaru and said of his NZ Rally experience: "It's very difficult, very long and takes a lot of concentration, it's like going to the airport in Bologna."

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