Rallying: Gronholm leads after opening day

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The Independent Online

Marcus Gronholm stamped his authority on day one of Rally New Zealand as Valentino Rossi struggled to come to terms with life on four wheels.

Finland's Gronholm won the opening five stages to lead Ford team-mate and countryman Mikko Hirvonen by 31 seconds.

Rossi, the seven-time motorcycle world champion, spun on stage one and spent the rest of the day recovering, eventually winding up 24th in his privately-entered Subaru, almost 11 minutes off the lead.

The Italian has still bettered his only other appearance in the World Rally Championship, in Britain in 2002, when he crashed out on the third stage.

And he remains upbeat, clocking quicker times as the day got progressively drier.

"I need some more kilometres, but it's becoming better," the Yamaha MotoGP rider told www.Autosport.com.

"I don't have reference points, and I don't want to be too daring, at least at the beginning. Rallying is completely different.

"It was more slippery than I thought, I was very cautious but we have arrived at the end of the day so it is not so bad."

In fourth place is Austrian Manfred Stohl, with Norway's Petter and Henning Solberg sixth and seventh and Luis Perez Campanc, of Argentina, in eighth.