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Rossi scores breakthrough GT World Challenge victory at Misano

Valentino Rossi scored his maiden victory in the GT World Challenge Europe victory on home soil at Misano with his emotions clear to see.

Podium: Race winner #46 Team WRT, BMW M4 GT3: Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin, second place #11 Comtoyou Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II : Lucas Legeret,  Christopher Haase, third place #31 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3: Jean Baptiste Simmenauer,  Thomas Neubauer

On the track where Rossi had achieved race-winning success in MotoGP on three occasions, 'The Doctor' achieved a breakthrough in his new career.

Alongside Team WRT BMW team-mate Maxime Martin, there had been a small amount of luck involved in Sunday’s second one-hour encounter of the weekend – the sister #32 WRT BMW of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts dropped 13-seconds and the lead following a disastrous pit-stop. 

But make no mistake, Rossi not only maintained his margin at the head of the field but produced arguably his most composed and impressive drive to comfortably pull away from Lucas Legeret’s chasing Audi to come out on top. 

“I cannot be happier," said Rossi. "To win here at Misano is very special. We knew we could be strong, but winning is another story!

"I won my first GT race at Road to Le Mans, but this is different, as this is our main championship, the level is so high and there are so many fast drivers.

"It all started one and a half years ago, with Vincent, with the entire WRT team, and this is a great achievement. Everybody did a mega job, Maxime, the boys, and I thank everybody and BMW. I’m enjoying the moment and let’s continue like this.”

Team-mate Martin could barely watch in the garage after handing over the reins to his nine-time world champion partner.

#46 Team WRT, BMW M4 GT3: Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin

#46 Team WRT, BMW M4 GT3: Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin

Photo by: SRO

"For sure, if we were to choose one race to win, Vale would have said ‘Misano’, so we couldn’t dream for a better result," said Martin.

"I am also very happy for BMW, as it is since 2015 they hadn’t won a sprint race. I was in that car, at Nogaro, with Dirk Müller, and it’s great to prove the brand is back also in sprint races.” 

After finishing eighth in Saturday’s opening race, the #46 started third on the grid with Martin at the wheel and maintained position behind Patric Niederhauser’s Audi and Vanthoor in the leading WRT machine. 

The #32 pitted at the earliest opportunity, along with Martin but things turned sour for Vanthoor and Weerts – the dominant forces at Misano in recent years – which allowed Rossi to move up a place. 

Niederhauser stayed out, but the #26 Comtoyou Racing R8 dropped back as GT4 graduate Erwan Bastard struggled in his stint. 

That left Rossi in the clear from Legeret, who had taken over from Christopher Haase in the #11 Audi, some four seconds ahead. Legeret, for all that he tried, could not keep pace with the BMW and Rossi was duly welcomed home amid ubiquitous fluorescent yellow flares and deafening airhorns to take a popular victory. 

If Sunday was all about Rossi, the previous day’s action proved more pivotal as Akkodis ASP’s Timur Boguslavskiy and Raffaele Marciello leapfrogged Attempto Racing’s Ricardo Feller and Mattia Drudi in the Sprint Cup points standings with victory in race one. 

#46 Team WRT, BMW M4 GT3: Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin

#46 Team WRT, BMW M4 GT3: Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin

Photo by: SRO

Marciello took pole in the morning and maintained his lead either side of an opening-lap safety car, triggered by a multi-car incident at turn one which took out Loris Spinelli (Imperiale Racing), Gilles Magnus (Comtoyou Racing) and Nicolai Kjaergaard (Garage 59) on the spot. 

Marciello pulled away from Giacomo Altoe’s Emil Frey Racing Ferrari before the pit-stops, but it was the battle of the second drivers which proved decisive, as Boguslavskiy had the measure of Altoe’s team-mate Konsta Lappalainen to take the win by over seven seconds. 

Despite a strong recovery drive to 10th, the damage for Feller and Drudi was done in qualifying, as the #40 crew could only manage 18th on the grid. Their cause was not helped in the race as the Audi was one of a number of cars penalised five seconds for exceeding track limits. The lasting effect was that Marciello and Boguslavskiy took a 10.5-point lead into race two, which they extended to 17.5 over Rossi and Martin before the next round at Hockenheim.

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