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Driving a Formula One Ferrari is easier than a Subaru World Rally Car according to Valentino Rossi, the seven times World Motorcycling Champion who is the superstar of this year's Hamilton based Rally of New Zealand.

Rossi has been seeded 11th for the event, behind ten much more experienced drivers of WRC cars including former World Rally Champions Petter Solberg and Marcus Gronholm.

Rossi is in the fortunate position of having driven both a Ferrari and Subaru in recent months as he thinks about a competitive life after motor cycling.

"The Ferrari is strange," said Rossi. "It's a very different car because of the aerodynamics and the G forces are incredible."

But driving a Formula One single seater on a race track was similar to his Moto GP Yamaha, said Rossi.

"The braking points and lines through the corners aren't too different."

"But a rally car is completely different on stones. You need a lot of experience to go faster. It is the hardest way to change to a car for motorsport. It's very difficult to come from the track to a rally."

Rossi admitted his lack of experience showed at the shakedown stage on Thursday morning.

"It was very bad. The car is very fast and I don't have enough experience," said Rossi.

He has come to New Zealand to have some fun and understand how a car behaves on gravel. "I want to start slow and come better towards the end."

His one previous experience of a WRC event was in Wales in 2002 when he crashed on the first stage. "I don't want to make a mistake at the beginning this time."

Rossi cautiously said he wanted to see if he had any future potential as a rally driver when he stops motor cycle racing in another two or three years.

"I want to make some good kilometres, understand my speed in the car and understand the rhythm of rally driving and how a real WRC event is."

Before starting Friday's competition, Rossi has done just 80 kms of testing in a Welsh forest
Most of Rossi's rally car experience has been in stadium events in Italy which were more akin to a race track, he said.

He hopes to gain more experience of rallying next year. "So maybe when I finish with the bike I can do it."

That won't be sweet music to the fanatical Italian fans most of whom would like him to make the step to Formula One. "Rallying's my passion after motorcycling," said Rossi, who says he is enjoying the sport's culture and friendliness.

"The relationships with the other competitors are a lot better than motorcycling where we are always battling one another. For rally we only race the clock."

Rossi's appearance at Rally NZ has lifted the event, the penultimate round of this year's series, which has already been won by Sebastian Loeb and in which Ford only needs three more points this weekend to take the manufacturer's title.

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