Valentino Rossi will embark upon a new career in sports car racing this year by contesting the full Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season with leading Audi squad Team WRT.
The nine-time grand prix motorcycle world champion hung up his leathers at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign and immediately set his sights on a fresh challenge in four-wheeled competition. Following a successful test with Team WRT at Valencia in December, Rossi has now finalised an agreement to contest the 10-round Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS championship with the Belgian squad.
Carrying the iconic #46 that he made famous in motorcycle racing, the Italian will contend for overall honours in both the Endurance Cup and the Sprint Cup alongside official Audi Sport drivers. The Sprint schedule includes a homecoming event at Misano (1-3 July), while the Endurance Cup itinerary features another Italian round at Imola (1-3 April) as well as a maiden attempt at the marquee TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa (28-31 July).
By joining Team WRT, Rossi has aligned himself with the most successful operation in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS history. The Audi squad has amassed an unparalleled 28 overall teams’ and drivers’ titles since 2011, including five from a possible six last term. The Belgian outfit has been particularly dominant in the Sprint Cup and is also a perennial contender for victory at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
Though 2022 represents a fresh start in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, Rossi is not a newcomer to the series having contested a pair of Endurance races at Monza and the Nürburgring during the 2012 season. He will begin his latest endeavour by joining Team WRT at the official test days at Circuit Paul Ricard on 7-8 March. The Endurance Cup season kicks off at Imola, while the Sprint Cup schedule gets underway at Brands Hatch on 30 April/1 May.
Valentino Rossi: “I am delighted to join Team WRT for a full Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS programme. 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 programme at a 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 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS with them.”
Vincent Vosse, WRT Team Principal: “I am sure that a lot of fans will be as pleased as we are that Rossi is starting a new career on four wheels and that he is doing it in GT, with Team WRT and Audi. 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.”
Thomas Jackermeier, CEO Fanatec/Endor AG: “Seeing the legendary Valentino Rossi drive for WRT in the 2022 season of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS will be a landmark moment for the long-running series. For us, it is also exciting to see an avid sim racer like Valentino test the waters in GT racing after such a long and successful career in motorsport. It is a testament to the quality of racing found in the Fanatec GT World Challenge and I can’t wait for this season to begin and see what he can do with WRT both on track and in the Esports Championship as well.”
Stéphane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group founder & CEO: “I am delighted to welcome Valentino Rossi to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS grid for 2022. 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.”