MotoGP legend Rossi joins WRT for 2022 GT World Challenge Europe
MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi has committed to a full campaign in the GT World Challenge Europe with WRT and Audi.
The 42-year-old retired from MotoGP at the end of the 2021 season, bring to an end a 26-year career in grand prix motorcycle racing that yielded nine world titles across 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP classes and 115 total grand prix victories.
Rossi repeatedly stated last year that he would switch to GT racing at the end of his MotoGP career, having previously contested the Gulf 12 Hours in a Kessel Racing Ferrari.
Having tested for WRT in an Audi R8 in December at Valencia, Rossi has committed to a full 10-round campaign in GTWCE across the Sprint Cup and the Endurance Cups with the championship’s leading Audi squad.
WRT has announced that Rossi will share a car across the 10 races with factory Audi drivers, which confirms that silver-rated Rossi will be racing in the Pro class of the series as outlined by team boss Vincent Vosse to Motorsport.com last year.
They have yet to be named by the team, but factory drivers on the WRT roster last year include the championship-winning line-up of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, as well as Kelvin van der Linde and Robin Frijns.
The WRT-run Audi R8 LMS GT3 raced by Rossi will bear his traditional race number, #46, in the GTWCE.
Valentino Rossi, WRT Audi R8 GT3 LMS
Photo by: Ferdi Kräling Motorsport-Bild GmbH
Commenting on his decision, Rossi described WRT as “the perfect fit I was looking for.”
“Everybody knows that I have always been a great car racing fan and that I have always been interested in racing on four wheels once my MotoGP career would come to an end,” he said.
“Now I am completely available to devote myself to a car racing program at a high level and with the right professional approach.”
WRT, which is expanding its FIA World Endurance Championship team to two LMP2 cars this year, is planning a similar assault on the 2022 GTWCE to last season when it ran three cars in both the Endurance and Sprint legs of the championship.
WRT team principal Vincent Vosse added: “I am sure that a lot of fans will be as pleased as we are that Rossi 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.”
Vosse told Motorsport.com late last year that he believed Rossi had the potential to be a frontrunner in sportscar racing.
Rossi hasn’t hinted at how long he sees his post-MotoGP car racing career last, but a full campaign in GTWCE suggests serious intent from the Italian.
He has also made no secret of his desire to one day compete the 24 Hours of Le Mans – with an outing this year in the 24 Hours of Spa his first chance to contest a full 24-hour race.
Along with his Gulf 12 Hour outings, Rossi has also done endurance racing on two wheels, winning the Suzuka 8 Hours for Honda back in 2001.
Rossi will continue to have a presence in the MotoGP paddock in 2022, his VR46 squad stepping up to the premier class with his brother Luca Marini – who raced for Avintia last year – and Moto2 graduate Marco Bezzecchi.
The team will run Ducati machinery in 2022, something which may have been a factor in Rossi’s new association with Audi, which owns the Italian motorcycle brand, in GT racing.