The Belgian team WRT announced this Thursday their signing of MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi for their ranks at the GT World Challenge Europe 2022 where the Italian will take the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS.
The team announced that the 42-year-old pilot will share the car with factory Audi drivers in the Pro Category, although no names have been revealed yet. Among the possible candidates are current champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, as well as Kelvin van der Linde and Robin Frinjs.
The R8 LMS of the seven-time MotoGP champion will bear the iconic #46 that has accompanied him throughout his motorcycling career. Rossi completed a test session last December with his new GTWCE team and vehicle and, as can be deduced by the decision announced this Thursday, it is evident that both parties were very satisfied with the trial.
Welcome Vale! We are happy to see @ValeYellow46 joining @followWRT to contest the 2022 @GTWorldChEu Sprint and Endurance Cup in an Audi R8 LMS carrying his favourite number 46. Good luck for the season!
>> https://t.co/lBfInMa54I#PerformanceIsAnAttitude #GT3 pic.twitter.com/vArEW8WNUX
— Audi Sport (@audisport) January 13, 2022
Much more than a car racing fan
Despite racing in the two-wheel World Championship for the last 26 seasons, where he has won nine crowns and become a worldwide icon, Valentino Rossi has always found time to practice his other great passion: Motorcar racing.
After numerous flirtations with Formula 1 and completing several tests with Ferrari between 2004 and 2010, in the end, he was seduced by rallying, where in recent years has become the star of the Monza Rally, winning it on several occasions.
After those two forays into two of the most demanding specialities in motorsports, he was finally drawn to GT racing as is made evident by his appearance in two recent editions of the 24 Hours of the Gulf with a Ferrari belonging to Kessel.
Unfortunately, a positive COVID-19 test prevented him from taking the start at the 2022 edition. As in previous years, this time around he was due to share a vehicle with his brother and current MotoGP rider Luca Marini and his friend ‘Uccio’ Salucci.
The moment of truth on his four-wheel journey
Despite his previous experiences in four-wheel racing, Valentino Rossi is now stepping into the unknown as far as category, team, vehicle and competition are concerned. Surrounded by professional and experienced drivers, the pilot from Tavullia will have to demonstrate his skill at the wheel of a very different machine from the motorcycle he is so used to riding.
Neither Rossi nor WRT have revealed the length of their contract, but setting out for a full season of the GT World Challenge Europe, including the Endurance and Sprint Series, denotes the strength of the commitment of the Italian star with his new professional project.
It is still too early to know if one day he will realize his dream of racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans but for the time being, and in just a few months’ time, he will have a first experience in a race of such length and demand, the 24 Hours of Spa.
Valentino Rossi & WRT, very happy with the deal
Valentino Rossi said: “I am delighted to join Team WRT for a full Fanatec GTWCE powered by AWS programme. Everybody knows that I have always been a great car racing fan and that I have always been interested in a racing on four wheels once my MotoGP career would come to an end. Now I am completely available to devote myself to a car racing programme at high level and with the right professional approach. Team WRT is the perfect fit I was looking for and I am anxious to start this new adventure in the GTWCE with them.”
Vincent Vosse: “I am sure that a lot of fans will be as pleased as we are that Vale is starting a new career on four wheels and that he is doing it in GT, with Team WRT and Audi. We all know what a great motorbike champion and sports figure Vale is, but most of all, he is a true racer and a very professional and competitive sportsman, eager to be as successful as possible in the new challenge he has decided to embrace”.
“This is exactly why we really wanted to work with him. The test we made at Valencia was extremely positive for both parties, in terms of technical feedback and working approach, and we took things from there. We warmly welcome Vale in the WRT family and I am sure that we are off to a very exciting experience for both.”
Stéphane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group founder & CEO said: “I am delighted to welcome Valentino Rossi to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS grid for 2022. Having followed his illustrious career in motorcycle racing for more than two decades, it is truly exciting to witness the start of this new chapter in GT machinery. To attract a competitor of Valentino’s stature is a tremendous vote of confidence for our championship and for GT racing in general. He will bring new energy to our paddock and I look forward to watching him on-track this season.”
Images of Valentino Rossi: Team WRT
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