Rossi eyes rally racing for future

Updated: April 22, 2009, 10:46 AM ET
Reuters

TOKYO -- Italian Valentino Rossi, the world's fastest man on two wheels, is planning a career on four wheels once he is done with motorcycling.

The MotoGP world champion, who signed a new two-year deal with Yamaha last July, told Reuters he could drive for Ford in the World Rally Championship in the future.

"I do hope to switch to four wheels," Rossi said in an interview before this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, where he regained his title in 2008.

"I think it's too late for Formula One, but I hope to have the second part of my career with the car.

"It's always been my great passion. I grew up beside my father [Graziano], who also drove rally cars so I hope when I finish with bikes I have another 10 years with the car."

The six-times premier class world champion, second in the season opener in Qatar earlier this month, has tested for Ferrari and admitted he had seriously considered a move to Formula One.

"I had my chance to go into Formula One at the end of 2006," Rossi said. "I spoke a lot with Ferrari. I had a serious plan to be the test driver in 2007 and then start to race in 2008.

"But I decided to stay with bikes -- so it meant me and Formula One were finished."

The 30-year-old has also driven in the rally world championship, making his third competitive appearance for Ford in last December's Wales Rally.

"I think the World Rally Championship is the main option," Rossi said. "I have a great relationship with Ford so maybe it will be Ford. In the summer of 2010 I will decide."

Rossi added that he had lost none of his hunger for MotoGP, targeting fellow Italian Giacomo Agostini's record of 122 motorcycle race wins during the 1960s and 1970s.

"When you arrive behind Agostini you start to think," said Rossi, who has 97 victories and a total of eight world titles to his name, including the 125cc and 250cc championships.

"I'm still about 25 [race wins] behind him. It means if I want to try to catch him I have to continue racing after these two years. I will decide next year."

Rossi, who has won 71 top division races, added: "I never race for records. The motivation to try to beat the record is not enough to continue. You have to enjoy it."

Rossi, dubbed "The Doctor" by his fans as a mark of respect, is relishing this weekend's Japanese race after finishing behind Australian Casey Stoner in Qatar.

The Italian said his rivalry with Stoner, who won the MotoGP title in 2007, helped maintain his hunger for the sport he has dominated with Honda and then Yamaha since 2001.

"Stoner is the new generation," Rossi said. "It's always difficult to keep your concentration and the motivation, but a tough rival like Casey is great motivation.

"It looks like at the moment again me and Casey are the riders with the best speed. He is always difficult but this is my great passion, to try to ride the bike at the limit.

"I have the same taste now as my first race. When I don't enjoy it, it's time to stop."

Rossi has had some famous run-ins with his rivals in the past, most notably Max Biaggi, culminating in a punch-up between the feuding Italians after a race in Barcelona in 2001.

"Most of the fighting with Max was off the track," Rossi said with a grin. "We were quite different. When you fight for the same thing it's difficult because there can only be one winner.

"Everyone loves those battles. The great fights with your strongest rivals are always the biggest motivation. When you win easily it's not the same taste.

"It was fun. I remember with a lot happiness the years with Biaggi."

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