There’s a new doctor in the city of endurance racing, his name is Valentino Rossi. The 49-year-old Italian motorcycle rider won two world championships in 125 and 250cc before claiming seven top-level world championships in 500cc and four-stroke MotoGP during a 26-year professional career. Retiring from the saddle at the end of the 2021 season did not mean retiring from racing, however. The man nicknamed The Doctor has announced that he will compete in a full season of GT World Challenge Europe with Belgian outfit W Racing Team (WRT). His weapon will come with two extra wheels and will be one of the best in the business, just like his Yamaha M1 once was – the Audi R8 LMS GT3. WRT has won the GT World Challenge, formerly known as the Blancpain GT Series, four times in the past eight years. Rossi will be one of two drivers to try to increase the win ratio to five times in nine. WRT has yet to announce who the Urbino man will be partnered with.
Rossi wrote in a social media post: “I’m thrilled to join the WRT team for a full Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe program powered by AWS. Everyone knows I’ve always been a big motor racing fan. and that I was always interested in racing on four wheels once my MotoGP career was over. Now I am fully available to dedicate myself to a high-level motor racing program and with the right professional approach. The WRT team is the perfect person I was looking for and I can’t wait to start this new adventure in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS with them.”
He was more than just a motor racing fan. Among other forays, he tested Ferrari’s 2006 Formula 1 car that year for three days in Spain, finishing with a best time half a second behind Michael Schumacher’s fastest time. Also in 2006, he finished 11th out of 39 entered in Rally New Zealand. In 2008 he got another Ferrari test. In 2012 he drove a Ferrari in two rounds of the Blancpain Endurance Series, then tested Kyle Busch’s NASCAR rig at Charlotte Motor Speedway the following year. Further laps in single-seaters and hardtops followed. His most recent and real test started with a few days of development work last December in the Audi he will drive this year.
The 2022 GT World Challenge season kicks off with testing on March 8 at Circuit Paul Ricard in France. The first of the season of ten races, five sprints and five endurance events including the 24 Hours of Spa, takes place in Rossi’s home country of Imola on April 1. That’s when we’ll see what the #46 Vale Yellow can do on the side of a V10 instead of the YZR-M1’s one-liter four.