A big boost for the WRC and New Zealand
Seven-time world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi has confirmed he will compete in next month's 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 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 star is widely considered one of the best motorcycle racers of all time and is rated among the top-ten 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," 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.
Press Release Rally New Zealand