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Valentino Rossi: Frustration in Valencia - GTWC 2023

Written by Owen Bradley

Credit: Patrick Hecq

Valentino Rossi returned to a circuit which has been very generous to him over the years, taking victory twice in MotoGP and being the circuit which hosted his final ever MotoGP race, and also a circuit where his face has been painted on the side of a building, much excitement and hype was building coming into this weekend, one of the final weekends in the GT World Challenge season.

Rossi had the honours of taking the opening stint of the race, and also placing the car on the grid, in Qualifying 1, where Qualifying 2 was done only by Maxime Martin. Rossi had a bitterly disappointing qualifying session, ending up in P22. It has become clear over the course of this season, qualifying is certainly not one of Rossi’s strong points. Interestingly, this was also the case throughout his MotoGP career, known more as a “Sunday man”.

Race 1

A huge opening lap incident neutralised the #46 BMW’s pace, which ensured that Rossi wasn’t really able to make any progress because of a safety car period. However, once we finally got underway, Rossi was making some very bold, brave and beautiful overtakes. Taking the MotoGP overtaking line into Turn 1, late on the brakes into Turn 2 and even getting squeezed right up against the grass in the braking zone into Turn 2, Rossi was absolutely flying, it has become an absolutely wonderful experience to witness Rossi’s racecraft as it has come a long way in these last two years.

Credit: Jules Benichou

After making a very aggressive but calculated move up the inside into the final corner, Rossi would finish his stint by putting the team back within the Top 20. Maxime Martin would jump in the car, and it became clear that through the power of the pit stops, the #46 squad had managed to make a huge leap through the field into P14.

Martin had extraordinary pace, at one point setting the fastest lap of the race and beginning to chase the leading pack. As Marciello battled Costa for the leading positions, Martin flew through the field, managing to climb all the way to P8, and nearly managed to take P7 as well, closing down a 4.5 second gap, to just half a second. A truly staggering performance, and another great comeback for the #46 team.

However, the same problems are still there, Rossi’s qualifying pace is one of the only other things that need an improvement, and once this is properly sorted out, he will likely find himself scoring podiums and even wins, much more regularly. However, it must be said - Maxime Martin has been an absolutely spectacular teammate to Rossi in 2023, and both of them are now proven race winners in GT racing already, at a circuit which has similar characteristics to Misano, where Rossi took his maiden GT win. With Martin qualifying for Race 2, and taking the early stint, Sunday is where the team are more likely to shine, as both of their podiums at Brands Hatch and Misano, have come from Race 2.

Race 2

Credit: Patrick Hecq

Maxime Martin continued his excellent run of pace, by qualifying in P3 for Race 2, a truly excellent result for the team, as this puts them in great contention for another podium. Valencia is a track which can be relatively difficult to overtake at, so the chances of keeping this position or even managing to climb further through the field, are high so long as they don’t make any major errors, or have a lacklustre pit stop.

But it was bitter disappointment for the #46 BMW WRT team, as they started tremendously, very nearly taking the lead on the run into Turn 1, but being squeezed onto the grass on the infield. A Safety Car was brought out for a Lamborghini getting spun around at the beginning of Sector 2, and this also destroyed the #46 BMW, as a technical issue ruined their race and forced a retirement, before Rossi even managed to get in the car.

A thoroughly disappointing result for the team, who worked so hard all weekend to fight back in Race 1, and to get themselves in a great position for Race 2 as well, but alas it wasn't to be for the Belgian squad.

Still more to learn for the #46 team, who now go into Zandvoort with a point to prove, after not being able to show their full potential in Valencia. Disappointment in Valencia.

But what did you think of Rossi and Martin's weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

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