Valentino Rossi views a points result as a “good target” for his No. 46 WRT entry at Brands Hatch, where the Italian is making his Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup debut this weekend.
The motorcycle racing star is running the five-round Sprint season alongside Frederic Vervisch in the No. 46 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II run by defending teams’ champion WRT.
The pair had their first race together four weeks ago, when Nico Mueller joined them for the Endurance Cup curtain-raiser at Imola where they finished 17th overall.
On his first trip to Brands, a historic motorcycle racing venue, Rossi told reporters that he believes points are a realistic target for his and Vervisch’s side of the WRT garage.
A sliding scale of multiple points is distributed to the top eight finishers in Sprint Cup, with one point going to ninth and half a point for 10th.
“After the race at Imola, I think we can fight for seventh, eighth place, maybe sixth,” Rossi said.
“The level is very high, there are a lot of fast drivers. Here is a little different because we have less cars, but anyway the top 15 are very strong.
“Trying to stay in the top 10 could be a good target. It will not be easy, but I think that we can try.”
According to Rossi, the Sprint meeting at Brands Hatch will offer “something different” for him. One aspect is that he will need to start one of the races after taking the middle stint in Italy.
All of Rossi’s previous sports car race outings have come in long-distance events such as the Endurance Cup and the Gulf 12 Hours.
“It is the first sprint of the season, also the first sprint race for me, something different compared to the endurance, especially you have to work on the pitstop not to lose time,” he said.
“Especially it is the first time for me here at Brands Hatch. Unfortunately in the winter, we cannot do tests [at Brands Hatch so] I do not know the track.
“I tested the track on the simulator. It is a great track, fantastic. It is difficult especially because you have a lot of places where it is blind. You have to do a lot of kilometers, I think, to understand the right way.
“The track is in a fantastic condition with new asphalt. The layout is interesting, it is a very old-style track. We cannot wait for tomorrow to try the car.
“We will try to analyze the data from last year and see our speed tomorrow.”
Rossi acknowledged that he still ‘needs to improve’ to be level with the pace of his fellow Pro-class competitors although Brands is only the second stop on a 10-round campaign.
His stint at Imola demonstrated consistency and the ability to hold position, but the No. 46 crew’s hopes of a points result were ended when Rossi lost time by missing his pit box.
“My performance in Imola was not so bad,” he proposed.
“During the weekend you have a lot more problems to face. First of all, you have qualifying where you jump in the car without free practice because it is very early in the morning.
“You don’t have five laps to feel the car. So you have to go, bang, and make your fastest lap. This is very difficult. After a day of testing, it is easier to bring the car [to] the limit.
“The good drivers make a big difference compared to me. I need to work under that point of view. My pace in the race was not too bad, especially in the second half of the stint.
“I need to arrive to that performance because the fast guys are very strong from the first lap. I need to improve my skills driving the car.
“I am not very far from the top guys, but anyway they are a bit faster than me, but it’s the beginning of the season. I need to try to improve race by race.”
Vervisch is confident about how the Evo II Audi will stack up at Brands Hatch, after the updated car won at Imola from pole position in the hands of WRT’s No. 32 crew.
“I think we will be competitive,” said the Audi Sport factory driver.
“The BoP has changed a bit because the Audis were very strong at Imola. It seems that we still have pace.
“We have more downforce and it’s a downforce track. I expect us to be competitive and we also did some changes on our car, which I think will help both of us.
“We will see tomorrow and Sunday, but I think we can do something nice.”