Valentino Rossi has admitted he was lucky to escape an early crash as he ended a tough opening day of the Wales Rally GB outside of the top 20.
The 29-year-old had a big spin on only the second special stage as the first day was dominated by treacherous conditions.
Icy conditions made driving hazardous and Rossi nearly succumbed in his Stobart-backed Ford Focus on the Myherin’s first run when he lost control.
“I had a 360-degree spin in the last stage. I was lucky to get away with it, but otherwise it’s been fine, “the reigning MotoGP world champion said after his narrow escape.
Rossi crashed out of his first Rally GB appearance on the very first stage back in 2002, but he survived his early scare to end 24th overall.
Rossi also lost a rear bumper on the second running of the Sweet Lamb stage.
Earlier the factory Yamaha rider had described conditions as ‘unbelievable’ because of the amount of surface ice caused by a heavy overnight frost. He also had to contend with hail, sleet and torrential rain at various stages of the day.
Rossi’s confidence gradually grew as the day wore on and he finally broke into the top 20 on the final stage, a second run through Walters Arena.
Rossi, who won nine races in 2008 to win back the MotoGP world title for the first time since ’05, ended the day just shy of three-and-a-half minutes behind day one leader Jari-Matti Latvala.