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Moto GP  champion Valentino Rossi is near-certain starter in this year's Rally New  Zealand, according to this week's Autosport.

Rossi is expected to drive a 2006-specification Subaru Impreza WRC in the North Island event, which will be the first World Rally Championship event since he retired from the opening leg of the Rally GB in a Peugeot in 2002.

"Valentino has always been really keen on rallying, we all know that. He's been trying to find a world championship event to compete in this year, but it had to be after the end of the MotoGP season," a source close to Rossi said.

"I would say the deal is 95 per cent done for him to go to New Zealand in an Impreza."

"He is one of motorsport's superstars and somebody we would certainly work with again," said Subaru team director Paul Howarth. "It wasn't so much the level of professionalism - you expect that at this level - but the way he worked out where the capabilities of the car at its maximum for the event was very impressive."
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