Interview: Valentino Rossi relishing four-wheel racing as Le Mans beckons

Picture: Joao Filipe / DPPI via AFP.

Picture: Joao Filipe / DPPI via AFP.

Published May 13, 2024

Share

MotoGP may have seen the back of Valentino Rossi but the seven-time world champion is still hard at work on the track, albeit in cars.

Since quitting two wheels at the end of the 2021 season, the 45-year-old has turned his attentions to four wheels and is currently involved in the World Endurance Championship with the BMW of GT3 team WRT, a road which inevitably leads to next month's Le Mans 24 hour race.

"When I started motorsport, taking part in the Le Mans 24 Hours was my first objective because it's the most prestigious race in the world," Rossi told AFP on the sidelines of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the third leg in the WEC programme.

"Last year I was able to discover the circuit and I really enjoyed it. It's an honour to be able to compete at Le Mans.

"To win at Le Mans, everything would have to go perfectly."

Will Rossi stick around for another decade?

Long car races are a far cry from the flat-out bike sprints of his past but the Italian sees some similarities and appears to be settling into the world of endurance.

In spite of failing to finish in Spa, he is currently equal 10th in the GT3 world championship standings.

Valentino Roissi during the Bahrain FIA World Endurance Championship Rookie Test 2023 at the Bahrain International Circuit. Picture: Julien Delfosse / DPPI via AFP.

"I really like 24-hour races and I've already done three of them.

"There are a lot of superb cars, some very good drivers and a superb atmosphere. You have to work hard and push yourself to the limit because the level is very high, but I'm very happy.

"The big difference is the format because in MotoGP the race lasted 45 minutes, here it's several hours.

"So there's a lot of strategy and you have to share the car, which I really like.

"There are also similarities, such as braking, finding the right line, hitting the gas at the right moment... It's very different and similar at the same time."

Rossi, however, is unlikely to win Le Mans overall, certainly not this year when he is competing in the GT3 category.

And he admits that while the draw of the hypercars, which will garner most of the attention at this year's race which takes place across the weekend of June 15-16 and provide the ultimate winner, is there, he may not be ready for it.

"I'd like to drive the hypercar and I'm pushing BMW hard so maybe at the end of the year I'll try it out," he says.

"But to be honest, they really are the best hypercar drivers and I don't know if my level is good enough.

"Obviously it would be a dream to drive in the hypercar championship, the premier class, but I'm already very happy in GT3 and I hope to become one of the best."

Never a man to shy away from a challenge, Rossi is not intending to be a short-term curiosity in the world of race cars - he insists he is in it for the long-term.

"I hope to continue racing for as long as possible," he says.

"Physically, I feel very well. As long as I'm fast and I'm enjoying myself, I'll continue. So why not for another 10 years?"

AFP

Related Topics:

Motor racingBmw