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Despite going into Propecia Rally New Zealand as the underdog, multiple Moto GP winner, Valentino Rossi, came away from the rugged three-day event covered in glory. Driving a privately-entered Subaru Impreza World Rally Car which had previously been driven by Chris Atkinson in 2005, the Italian finished a very creditable 11th outright. 

"I am very happy with the result”, Rossi said after the rally. “All I wanted to do was to finish and with no damage to the car. I started slowly on Friday, getting used to the car, but built up my speed over the weekend. It was a good feeling”.

Rally New Zealand was only Rossi’s second World Rally Championship event, the first being the 2002 Wales Rally Great Britain, but it ended prematurely for the Italian when he went off the road and became bogged just several corners from the start. This year in New Zealand, however, he drove like a champion.
Rossi’s appearance in New Zealand was greeted by thousands of fans who cheered him on the stages and queued up for his autograph at every possible occasion. However, one of the highlights was to be invited to do celebratory donuts in front of the crowd after the post-event presentation, a task that he and his Subaru were well up to. In front of a huge crowd of spectators, Rossi performed a number of circles, smoke pouring from his car’s tyres, much to the delight of the crowd.

Spectators out on the stages noted with pleasure Rossi’s steady improvement as each day progressed. Starting out very tentatively, it was obvious that he was feeling his way on Day One, even in relatively dry conditions. By the second day, his courage was improving despite the roads being very wet and slippery. Observers were warm in their praise for his measured approach to the rally, noting that his lines were much better and his speed increasing. By the final day, held in mixed conditions, Rossi had got well and truly into the groove and was setting some very respectable times given his limited experience.
“Would you like to go rallying in the future?”, he was asked at the finish. “Yes, if the opportunity arose and I could fit it (the World Rally Championship) in around my motorcycle commitments, I would love to give it a go. We will see”.
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