Seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi finished his first race as a full-time GT rider with a 17th-place finish at the GT World Challenge Europe season-opening round at Imola.
Sharing an Audi R8 LMS with established GT drivers Fred Vervisch and Nico Muller, Rossi helped qualify the car to an impressive 15th on the grid from 52 entries.
The car raced hard in the first stint with Vervisch at the wheel before Rossi took over on the first lap of pit stops as the first hour ended.
17th at that time, he then reached 12th place during his stint.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Rossi as a miscommunication between the MotoGP legend and his pit crew meant he missed his pit at the end of his stint.
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This forced Rossi to circle for an extra lap behind the safety car, losing crucial time.
“Unfortunately I had a lot of confusion, a lot of cars [around]and unfortunately I missed the pit [box]. We lost a lot – but that’s experience,” Rossi said.
The race was won by another Audi, the #32 WRT team of Kelvin van der Linde, Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor, the defending GTWC Europe champions.
Second on the line, Akkodis ASP Mercedes (renamed from Akka ASP) with Jules Gounon, Raffaele Marciello and Dani Juncadella while Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG of Luca Stolz, Vincent Abril and Maro Engel completed the podium in third.
Pedrosa gets his first four-wheel experience in a Lamborghini
Rossi wasn’t the only former MotoGP rider in action at Imola, as 31-time premier class winner Dani Pedrosa took part in his first car race aboard a Lamborghini Huracán in the one-make Super Trofeo Europe championship.
The winner of 15 Grands Prix teamed up with the FFF Racing team – co-owned by former Toyota Formula 1 test and development driver Andrea Caldarelli – alongside Pro driver Antonin Borga.
Pedrosa finished ninth in the Pro-Am class in the first 50-minute race of the weekend before moving up to eighth overall and fourth in Pro-Am in Sunday’s second race.
He is expected to take part in two more doubles this season, with his next appearance in July at Misano Adriatico.
“It was a real learning experience for me, as I had never driven a race car before. [besides a one-off F1 test with Red Bull alongside Marc Marquez] and I had never driven or ridden at Imola either,” Pedrosa said.
“But I enjoyed the weekend, it was exciting, and I hope to improve even more in the next races.”
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