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Rossi to Contest Endurance, Sprint Cups in WRT Audi

Motorcycle racing champion Valentino Rossi to tackle full GTWC Europe season with WRT…

Photo: WRT

Nine-time Grand Prix motorcycle racing champion Valentino Rossi will embark on a full season Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS campaign this year with reigning series champion Team WRT.

Rossi, who retired from MotoGP at the end of last year, is confirmed to drive the No. 46 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II in the Endurance and Sprint Cups with Audi Sport factory drivers who are yet to be announced.

 The 10-race program will include Rossi’s debut at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.

“I am delighted to join Team WRT for a full Fanatec GTWC Europe powered by AWS program,” said Rossi.

“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.

“Now I am completely available to devote myself to a car racing program at high level and with the right professional approach.

“Team WRT is the perfect fit I was looking for and I am anxious to start this new adventure in the GTWCE with them.”

Rossi tested a WRT Audi at Circuit Ricardo Tormo last month, which gave the first signs that the Italian was in discussions about a race seat with the team led by Vincent Vosse.

WRT won the GTWC Europe Endurance, Sprint and combined teams’ titles last year while Dries Vanthor and Charles Weerts sealed the Sprint and combined drivers’ titles.

“I am sure that a lot of fans will be as pleased as we are that Vale is starting a new career on four wheels and that he is doing it in GT, with Team WRT and Audi,” said Vosse.

“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.”

Rossi’s full-season GTWC Europe commitment comes 10 years after he drove a Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in two Endurance Cup races.

The 42-year-old has also competed in the Gulf 12 Hours with the Kessel squad and was due to take part in last weekend’s 10th edition of the race at Yas Marina Circuit until he withdrew due to a close contact with a person who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Rossi’s move to GT3 racing full-time stands as a major scoop for GTWC Europe.

The championship visits the WRT driver’s native Italy twice next year, with the Endurance Cup opening at Imola in April followed by a Sprint Cup fixture at Misano in July.

“I am delighted to welcome Valentino Rossi to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS grid for 2022,” said SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel.

“Having followed his illustrious career in motorcycle racing for more than two decades, it is truly exciting to witness the start of this new chapter in GT machinery.

“To attract a competitor of Valentino’s stature is a tremendous vote of confidence for our championship and for GT racing in general. He will bring new energy to our paddock and I look forward to watching him on-track this season.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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