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Valentino Rossi’s MASTERCLASS at GTWC Hockenheim 2023

Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: Patrick Hecq

Fresh from the much-deserved summer break, the GT World Challenge Europe series returned to an iconic circuit in Germany, the Hockenheimring.


The Hockenheimring provides enough variability for the GT cars, with the tight and twisty section of Sector 3 at the end of the lap, and the wide and open part of the track in the first sector, which witnessed most overtakes being pulled off.


Rossi and his teammate Maxime Martin were coming into this Sprint round as the most recent Sprint race winners, at Misano, Italy — where Valentino Rossi would bring the car home to take victory, and for the first time in his GT career, in front of the home crowd. Therefore, heading into the beloved circuit that is the Hockenheimring, motivation and energy was high within the #46 side of the WRT garage.


Race 1

This energy and motivation was the factor pushing this team to where they got in the races, because for Race one — every BMW seemed to really struggle, with the Audi and Lamborghini cars managing to snap up most of the front positions, and left most of the BMW’s outside of the Top 10, heading into the race. For Valentino Rossi and the #46 team, they ended up qualifying down in P35, a terrible result, one which definitely left them with plenty to do.

Credit: Jules Benichou

However, once Rossi started the race, intentions were crystal clear, the #46 BMW team were not going to sit behind, and make slow progress with the rest of the pack. They ended up carving their way through the pack like a hot knife through butter, making cautious but daring moves into the Turn five hairpin, a spot requiring you to go late on the brakes, and find the traction coming out of the corner.


Rossi put in an absolutely excellent shift, and it shows exactly how much he has improved, especially with his racecraft which has been refined to the point of managing to battle some of the best drivers inside some of the best cars.


Once Rossi handed the car over to the faster driver of the pair, Maxime Martin - the #46 BMW was absolutely flying. More overtakes, avoiding accidents, and getting ever closer to the leading pack, Rossi and Martin would come home to finish a remarkable 8th place, after starting in 35th - If you had to pinpoint a race on Rossi’s GT Career for most progress, this is certainly high on that list, simply because it was clear to see the amount of pace they both had, and also the racecraft he has refined over the last year-and-a-half. 27 positions gained and much respect too, as they rounded out Race one of the weekend.


Race 2

Qualifying for Race two fared better, as the #46 was the leading BMW in the field, lining up 7th for the start. And after a very productive first race, they were certainly among the favourites to at least take a podium finish, or even a race victory, if things fell into place.


Maxime Martin started the race this time around, and that was certainly a great thing, as he took the car from 7th at the race start, to 4th by the end of lap one, and put the team firmly in contention for a podium finish.


After a short safety car period, Martin managed to overtake an Audi for P3, and began absolutely hounding the #40 Audi for P2, which then picked up a five-second penalty, ensuring that the #46 BMW team were in, effectively, P2.

Credit: Patrick Hecq

However, disaster struck in the pit stops. An awfully-slow pit stop, suspiciously got the other WRT #32 BMW in front of the #46 BMW, and also meant that once Rossi got into the car, they were off the podium. This slow pit stop was certainly one which would have got the fans rolling their eyes about, because this was a major chance for Rossi to score yet another podium, having managed to do so at Brands Hatch and Misano, both having somewhat similar characteristics to the Hockenheimring.


Rossi would then be pushed off the track in some really interesting racing tactics by an Audi, which affected his run down the main straight, losing two positions, and being rapidly caught by a Porsche.


In the end, Rossi managed to bring the car home to finish exactly where they started, in P7! Which wasn’t too bad a result considering they were legitimately fighting for a podium, and had that chance ripped from them, with something they couldn’t actually control.


Whilst the statistics will say Rossi finished P8 and P7 this weekend, these finishes do not even come close to telling the full story of an absolutely electric weekend for Martin and Rossi, and this result should not be overlooked as an average result, because it really could have been so much more.


What do you think, was this one of Rossi’s stronger GT drives? Let us know in the comments below!


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