As Fiat's marketing boss
Lapo Elkann stirs the Valentino Rossi rumour pot again, the
MotorGP superstar is believed to be set to test the new Fiat
Punto 'Super 2000' rally prototype, as early as next week.
Last week Lapo Elkann - grandson of the late Fiat Chairman,
Gianni Agnelli - discussed his on-going ambition, to get
Rossi to sign up with the budding Fiat 'Super 2000' rally
programme, with the highly respected Italian sports
newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. 'I don't think he'll move to F1,'
said Elkann, before adding, 'not in the short
term at least. I would like for him to compete with the Punto. He will decide
after the test."
words build on utterances reportedly made by the two wheel
star at last December's Bologna Motor Show when he is
believed to have said "I would like to drive rallies for
Fiat after my bike career," and also reflect on comments
Fiat's competitions boss Matilde Tomagnini made to reporters
recently. Valentino Rossi - currently cruising to yet
another comfortable MotoGP world title - this year has
openly mused about his future. Although earlier this month
he signed a one year extension to his existing Yamaha
contract, which now takes him up to the end of 2006, the
Italian sportsman has reiterated that his long-term future
lies on four wheels.
Earlier this month he undertook an extensive two day test
session with Ferrari, at the wheel of last year's F2004
Valentino Rossi gained
his first World Rally Championship experience when
he drove a Peugeot 206 WRC on the 2002 Rally GB,
although it was a short lived debut. Photos: Grifone.
Valentino Rossi will
test the new Fiat Punto 'Super 2000' prototype as
early as this coming week. Photo:
The Ferrari exercise - which took place at their private
Fiorano circuit - was watched over by the team's big guns:
Luca di Montezemolo, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn, all in
attendance. This was the second such test he has conducted
for the Scuderia and it is believed Ferrari are keen to
offer Rossi a testing deal. However with Michael Scumacher's
existing contract due to run out at the end of next year,
and new driver Felipe Massa recently signed up for just one
year, a major driver upheaval may not be the environment in
which to take a chance on Rossi's ability to adapt to F1.
Rossi has himself raised the question of successfully
switching to F1 - and thus attempting to emulating the feat
of John Surtees - while Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore has
also recently commented that he reckoned that it was
unlikely that Rossi could make the transition with ease.
With Elkann pushing Rossi towards the Fiat rallying option,
a test drive in the 'Super 2000' prototype is now on the
cards. The agressive-looking new Punto rally car has
recently been seen for the first time - in the hands of
Paolo Andreucci - at Fiat Auto's Balocco proving ground, and
this heavily-guarded facility will be the location chosen
for Rossi's private test session.
Originally the test was scheduled for September, however, it
could now happen as early as next week. The MotoGP circus is
currently on a short summer break, before it heads to the
Brno circuit for the Czech Grand Prix on 28th August.
Another brief break follows that race, after which the teams
head to Motegi for the Japanese Grand Prix on 18th
September, heralding the start of an intensive six-race
schedule, which ends when the season comes to a close in
Valencia, on 6th November. Rossi's test will therefore have
to take place in the 'window' either side of the visit to
Brno, although insiders believe this coming week will see
Rossi finally getting behind the wheel of the Punto.