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Valentino Rossi: From two wheels to four

Written by Aaron Carroll, Edited by Sean McKean

Valentino Rossi is undeniably one of the greatest MotoGP riders of all time, boasting  seven world titles (second only to Giacomo Agostini’s eight), 89 wins and 199 podiums.

On August 5th, 2021, Rossi announced his retirement from the world of MotoGP, and just over five months later, the Italian motorcycle legend announced his switch to four wheels, joining Team WRT for the 2022 GT World Challenge Europe season.

This wasn’t Rossi’s first venture onto four wheels or even into GT3 machinery. It is well known that Rossi completed tests for the Ferrari Formula 1 team in 2006, 2008 and 2010, besting lap times set by drivers such as Mark Webber and David Coulthard.

Rossi also ventured into rally, driving against the legend Colin McRae. Before his eventual full-time shift to four wheels, Rossi also completed a few races in the GT3 class, such as two races in the Blancpain Endurance Series (now GT World Challenge Europe) in 2012 and the 2019 Gulf 12 Hours. 

Since retiring from two wheels in 2021, Valentino has spent three years driving for WRT, one year driving an Audi R8 LMS GT3 and two years spent in a BMW M4 GT3, mainly in the GT World Challenge Europe. But how has Vale fared in the switch from bikes to cars?

Image Credits - GT World Challenge Europe

In 2022, Rossi drove an Audi R8 LMS GT3 for Team WRT alongside Nico Müller and Fred Vervisch in the Endurance cup and Fred Vervisch in the Sprint Cup. His first event was at the 3 Hours of Imola in the Endurance Cup, where Rossi’s #46, failed to score points. With Rossi himself being the clear weakest link of the three drivers in the car, the #46 car finished 17th overall (15th in class). 

Rossi fared slightly better in round one of the Sprint Cup at Brands Hatch, finishing out of the points in race one but scoring his first points with an eighth place in race two. 

The #46 failed to score at the sprint round in Magny-Cours, but they saw their first notable result in the 1000km of Paul Ricard, finishing fifth. Despite this, Rossi – while not miles off the pace – was still the slowest of the three drivers and seemingly struggling to get to grips with the Audi R8.

After some mediocre finishes out of the points at the sprint round in Zandvoort and a DNF in race one at Misano, Rossi and Vervisch scored another fifth-place finish in race two. Another non-score at the 24 Hours of Spa followed by his third fifth-place finish of the season in the Hockenheim 3 Hours made many question if Rossi was holding back WRT. 

The finale of the Sprint Cup came at Valencia, where the team had a horrendous time, finishing last in race one and a DNF in race two, thus leaving the #46 a lowly 16th in the Sprint Cup standings. 

Finally came the endurance cup finale in Barcelona where Rossi ended up sixth in the race and finished 16th in the Endurance Cup standings. Overall, 2022 wasn’t a very good season for the Rossi camp, as Valentino struggled to get to grips with the Audi R8 GT3 car.

Image Credits - GT World Challenge Europe

In 2023, Team WRT switched from the Audi R8 LMS GT3 car to the BMW M4 GT3 for the season. Rossi would once again run a dual season in GTWC Europe again this season, alongside Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin in Endurance and Maxime Martin in Sprint. 

Round one of the Endurance Cup took Valentino and WRT to Monza for three hours of racing. Straight away it was clear that Vale was much more comfortable in the BMW than the Audi, as he and the #46 crew qualified second for the race.

Rossi took the start and ran well for the first half of his stint until a mistake at Turn 1 un-did all his hard work as he bounced across the kerbs. Further problems as a result of his excursion meant the #46 started off 2023 with a DNF. 

In round one of the Sprint Cup at Brands Hatch, race one yielded 14th, but race two saw them take their first Sprint podium in second.

This was followed by an eighth in the Paul Ricard, before Rossi took his attention away from GTWC to compete in the 2023 Road to Le Mans, in which he competed with WRT and Jérôme Policand. Rossi and Policand came away from qualifying with a second and first in class, but fell to 13th in class in race one. However, they came away with Valentino’s first win in GT3 in race two. 

This served as a major confidence boost, as the legend on two wheels went on a string of good results on four wheels, with a sixth at the Spa 24 hours, eigth at race one in Misano, and his first GTWC win in race two at Misano.

After this, the #46’s fortunes turned again during the endurance round at the Nurburgring GP circuit, where the team suffered a mechanical issue into the final hour of the race.

Rossi and Martin finished eighth in race one and seventh in race two at the Hockenheim sprint round before heading off to Valencia for another sprint. The team finished eighth in race one, whilst another mechanical issue plagued the car in race two. 

Moving onto the final endurance round in Barcelona, a mistake from Vale sent him spinning into the gravel – his BMW left beached and out of the race. After all five endurance rounds, the #46 ended up 15th in the standings, but with much more promise than 2022. 

The final sprint round was positive for Valentino and the #46 crew, bringing home a third in race one and a seventh in race two, which left the squad fifth in the overall championship. 2023 turned out to be a much more promising year for Rossi as he got to grips quickly with the new BMW and took away some good results, namely his first two victories. 

Image Credits - GT World Challenge Europe

2024 so far has been a generally positive year for Rossi. He has taken on the challenge of competing in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) alongside his dual GTWC campaign. The Italian also took part in the Bathurst 12 Hours this season, taking fifth-place alongside teammates Maxime Martin and Raffaele Marciello.

In the WEC, he has been racing with Ahmad Al Harthy and Maxime Martin, driving to fourth and second in Qatar and Imola but retiring from Spa, leaving them sitting fifth in the championship heading into Le Mans, where Vale hopes to keep good form and get a good result. 

In the GTWC Endurance Cup so far, Rossi, Martin and Marciello picked up fourth in the only round so far at Paul Ricard. In the Sprint Cup, Rossi and Martin took home a victory and one more podium in Misano after struggling at Brands Hatch and failing to pick up any points, leaving them now sitting in fifth in the standings.

Image Credits - GT World Challenge Europe

After plenty of first year struggles, Rossi has blossomed into a genuine, respectable and quick sportscar driver, who can pull out a very good result on a good day.

While he is not at the level some would have hoped, he has surely silenced any critics who doubted his ability in 2022. The 45-year-old has already come on leaps and bounds in the past two years, and it will be interesting to see how much more Valentino Rossi has to give to sports car fans. 

1 Comment

May 28

the goat (talking about aaron ofcourse 🐐)

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