Valentino Rossi made his high profile debut with the WRT Audi Racing Team in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup racing series over the weekend at Imola.
Rossi had impressed pundits with his car control during qualifying and contested the race as part of a three driver team with Frederic Vervisch and Nico Müller.While his team-mates already have impressive four wheel pedigrees and a lot of experience, the star power of Valentino ensured the Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO2 was adorned with the famous #46 as its race number.
Team WRT is a large outfit with entries across various classes and it was the WRT Audi driven by Dries Vanthoor, Kelvin van der Linde and Charles Weerts that took the victory in the four-hour race.
Ultimately the #46 entry for Team WRT entry finished the four-hour in 17th position. They were never inside the top ten, but were running as high as 14th for a considerable period of time earlier in the race before a costly pit-stop mix-up that saw Rossi miss his pit garage.
Rossi was desperately looking for his pit garage but with dozens of cars in the pits he could not see it before he overshot his garage, which meant he had to go back out and tail the pack under a safety car. His team members were not stood out in pit-lane to wave him in otherwise they would have been collected by other cars in what was a very busy pit-lane, thus when a crew member finally ran out with a board it was too late to capture his attention before he drove on by. After another slow lap behind a safety car and the pit-stop then successfully taken the team had been pushed back to 23rd, before they recovered to a 17th place finish with Rossi’s team-mates driving the car.
“It was a very good weekend, we worked a lot and well, and I enjoyed every moment. In the race, I was strong, we could have gone for a good result, in the top-10, but unfortunately, there was this mistake at the pit stop, but we will learn from it. I still have to cope with a lot of new things in GT racing, where you have so many variables and information to handle, I guess this is what you call experience.”
“Qualifying could have been better, especially for Vale and me, but we were stuck in traffic. Still, in the race, despite starting from P15, we were competitive, had a good pace and could have been in the top-10. Vale would have deserved that because he did a really good job, no mistakes, good pace, but unfortunately, there was this miscommunication in the pit stop. It’s a pity, but there is a lot of positive to take into the next race.”
“We finished the race, which was the target, but we could have had a much better result without the confusion in the pits. Still, the positive is that we were competitive, Valentino had a very good race pace. Overall, we have a very good base from where to improve further.”
WRT Team Principal Vincent Vosse
“It has been a very positive weekend and I am very proud of the entire team. Car #32 made a perfect race and only left P1 for a few laps in the first stint. It’s a great win after having signed our first pole in the Endurance Cup in two years. Car #46 also made a very good race, despite starting from P15 and having to struggle with traffic. All the attention, obviously, was on Valentino, he did a very good job, no mistakes and had a good pace. He is not at fault in the pit stop issue, it is something that we have to analyse but that can happen when almost the entire field comes into the pit lane at the same time.”
The next outing for the team will be at Brands Hatch over the weekend of May 1 in what is a ten round season that is scheduled to conclude at Catalunya on October 2.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.