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Seven-time world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi has confirmed he will compete in next month’s Propecia Rally New Zealand.

The 27-year-old Rossi, a sporting superstar on and off the track, will compete in a Prodrive-prepared Subaru Impreza World Rally Car at the 36th Propecia Rally New Zealand, the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship that takes place in and around Hamilton and the Waikato from 16-19 November.

The Italian pin-up star is widely considered one of the best motorcycle racers of all time and is rated among the top-10 highest earning athletes on the globe.

While Rossi was tipped to turn to Formula One after testing for Ferrari, he has opted for rallying in New Zealand and his debut in a fully fledged WRC Team car will create worldwide media attention.

Prodrive Chairman David Richards, also owner of ISC, the commercial and television rights holder of the World Rally Championship, said the decision was exciting for the sport and for New Zealand.

“In the world of motorized sport, this guy is a super hero,” Mr Richards said. “He’s got great charisma, great natural ability and it’s going to be a great treat for everyone in New Zealand to come and see him in the rally.

“His involvement will provide a worldwide spotlight on the New Zealand event.

“Valentino has always been interested in rallying. While there’s been all the talk about him going to Formula One, he has always said to us that if he was not racing a motorcycle, then he wanted to be in rallying.

“Who knows in a few more events we might see him in a permanent place in the rally championship.”

Richards said the timing, and relative media isolation of New Zealand and the famed fast and flowing gravel roads were the main reasons that Rossi chose this event.

Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr said Rossi’s inclusion in the event was a real boost for the longest running world championship sport in New Zealand.

“It will provide additional focus on our country. And it shows the type of profile that this sport and this event can provide to the world.”

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton says a high profile star such as Valentino Rossi visiting New Zealand can only be good news for the country.

"Valentino Rossi has a large following in some of our key tourism markets and what he does is watched by millions of people. We know that he is not only interested in the Rally but the country that lies beyond the tracks and we will be delighted to host him around New Zealand."

It is also a major boost for Hamilton, which will host the rally for the first time.

"Valentino's decision to come to Hamilton is fantastic for the event and the city,” Hamilton City Mayor Michael Redman said. “We are looking forward to welcoming him here and to the heightened excitement and international attention that is participation will generate"

Rally New Zealand has also confirmed that it has received an official entry from current world champion Sebastian Loeb (Citroen), who is currently sidelined with a broken arm. He is missing from this weekend’s WRC round in Turkey, replaced by former world champion Colin McRae.

Valentino Rossi Biography:

Valentino Rossi (born February 16, 1979 in Urbino, Italy) is widely considered one of the best motorcycle racers of all time. He won his first World Championship in the 125cc category in his second season in 1997 for Aprilia, moving up to win the 250cc title for the same team in 1999.

He won the 500cc World Championship with Honda in 2001, the MotoGP World Championships (also with Honda) in 2002 and 2003, and continued his streak of back-to-back championships by winning the 2004 and 2005 MotoGP World Championship after leaving Honda to join Yamaha.

He is the youngest rider to win the World Championship in all three classes. At the end of the 2005 season, Valentino Rossi held 79 Grand Prix victories which makes him the third winningest rider of the Grand Prix series, third only to legendary rider Giacomo Agostini, who has 122 Grand Prix victories and Angel Nieto.

This year he equalled Mick Doohan’s 54 race wins in the premier class and in July became the first rider in GP history to go past 3000 career points.

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