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Valentino Rossi on his WEC Podium, VR46 Academy riders testing his BMW GT3 and More!

Conducted and Written by Owen Bradley

Credit: SRO and JEP

Valentino Rossi returned to Brands Hatch for his wildcard appearance in the GT World Challenge Sprint Cup. Rossi is a 9-Time MotoGP World Champion and is widely considered by many to be the greatest motorcycle rider ever. In 2022, Rossi switched to racing cars, which has proved to be an extremely successful venture, scoring many podiums in a short space of time.

Rossi is competing full-time in the FIA World Endurance Championship and after just two races in the premier endurance racing championship - he has achieved a podium with teammates Maxime Martin and Ahmad Al-Harthy. 

Rossi also races full-time in the GT World Challenge Endurance Cup, and in the first race already scored a fantastic 4th place finish. One year on from Rossi and Martin’s 2023 podium at Brands Hatch, and with a lot to discuss, SRO held a press conference for journalists on Saturday 4th May - where unfortunately Rossi and Martin had qualified outside the Top 10 for both races.

VR - Valentino Rossi, WRT BMW GT3 Racing driver

OB - Owen Bradley, DIVEBOMB Journalist

Valentino Rossi Interview, Press Conference 2024

VR: “Today was a difficult day, because we are not very strong and not very competitive. We tried to modify the car, but unfortunately it looks like we are not very strong because we suffered a lot of understeer, and today it was very busy with time on the track because we had two practice sessions and then qualifying as well.”

Credit: SRO and JEP

“We tried to modify the car in every session, but in the end it was difficult because in qualifying the feeling more or less remained very similar. Unfortunately also Maxime (Martin)  was not able to make a very good lap time in the second qualifying session, so for the races it will be difficult because we start from P13 for Race 1 and P11 for Race 2. Also this track is very difficult to overtake because it’s very narrow.”

“It looks like we are slower than last year, and we also struggled for pace with the used tyre. In second practice we tried to do a long run with the used tyre, but unfortunately it had a lot of understeer which became bigger and bigger, and so the pace is not fantastic. So we will see, we tried a lot with modifying the car, to try something more extreme for tomorrow and try to understand if it is better, and maybe also use the first race to try to understand for the second race, where the balance is. It will be hard for sure, but anyway we hope we can have good weather and a dry race like today, and after we will see what we can do.”

OB - With both the WEC and the GT World Challenge, in 2023 everything was very positive with podiums and wins. What is your main goal for each championship this year? Is it just for more podiums, or perhaps some wins? VR - “We always try to arrive on the podium, this is the target and I think we have the potential in the WEC and also in the GTWC. And after, if you win, for sure it’s better!

Credit: Jules Benichou

“But you know, in these types of races and especially the longer ones, you have a lot of different things and elements and to win everything has to be perfect. But it’s always a great feeling, so we will try to fight in all the races of WEC and GT."

OB - In Imola at the WEC, we saw you with Marco Bezzecchi and a few VR46 academy riders. Have you spoken with them, about when perhaps they finish their MotoGP career, do you think they will do the same as you? And come into Car racing with the GT’s?

VR - “We speak a lot about cars, always. They are super fun for sure, because what is good that I’ve learnt whilst racing with the cars, is that all the racing drivers are all very fond of motorcycle riders and all the motorcycle riders are very fond of cars, which is good!

Credit: Gold and Goose, Motorsport Images

“They always ask me, (Marco) Bezzecchi and also (Francesco) Bagnaia and also my brother, Luca Marini - who I also raced with before in Abu Dhabi at the Gulf 12 Hours, and we’ve raced in cars about three or four times. So it’s like this, and we were very fast.”

“So I think I want to organise one day to try the BMW M4 GT3 with all the VR46 Academy riders, because I think that they will enjoy that a lot. But now it is a little difficult, I always try to push and say, “why not?” So maybe the academy riders will also race with the cars, but I hope that they will race with the bikes for another 15 years or so!”

So there we have it, Rossi will attempt to organise a track day with the academy riders to try his BMW M4 GT3, and it appears that potentially at some point these current MotoGP legends, Francesco Bagnaia, Marco Bezzecchi and perhaps a few others - will also try their hand at GT Racing, like Valentino Rossi. Perhaps when that time comes, we may see them also in the World Endurance Championship. 

Valentino Rossi has certainly helped bridge that gap between motorcycle and car racing, not many people have been successful when making the switch. Most notably, John Surtees made an exceptional career feat, by winning both the Formula One and MotoGP Championships. Whilst not quite Formula One, the World Endurance Championship is right up there as one of the most competitive and difficult championships. A lot of Ex-F1 drivers and champions drive in the WEC, such as Jenson Button, Mick Schumacher and a few others. What Valentino Rossi has done and continues to do, is something very special, and something we may not see for a long time when he does decide to fully hang up his helmet. But let’s hope that day is far away.

Thanks to Valentino Rossi, Frederic Colaux, Luna De Wilde, Noreen Brunet, and everyone at WRT, SRO and MSV for this Press Conference. 


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