Seven-time world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi has confirmed he will compete in next month's Rally of New Zealand in a Subaru Impreza World Rally Car.
The 27-year-old Rossi, a sporting superstar on and off the track, will compete in a Prodrive-prepared Subaru Impreza 2006 WRC at 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 said the decision was exciting for the sport and for New Zealand.
"In the world of motorized sport, this guy is a super hero," said Mr. Richards. "He's got great charisma, great natural ability and it's going to be a real 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."
Mr. 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.
Rossi has driven Subarus in celebrity events in Italy and also tested with the Subaru World Rally Team.