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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Safety concerns over "crazy" Rossi attention at Le Mans

"Crazy" scenes at Tuesday's autograph session prompted Valentino Rossi's World Endurance Championship squad to seek "steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved" at Friday's Le Mans 24 Hours parade.

#46 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Valentino Rossi
MotoGP legend Rossi is making his Le Mans debut with WRT in the LMGT3 class, racing a BMW M4 GT3 after winning on his first foray at the Circuit de la Sarthe in last year's Road To Le Mans support race. 
Crowds of fans attending the autograph session prompted concern, with Rossi's team-mate Ahmad Al Harthy telling Autosport: "I've never seen anything like that. It got to a stage where it was a bit uncomfortable. 
"You watch big hip-hop artists perform and singers perform and see what it's like when the crowd starts pushing. And I never would have thought I'd see it right in front of my face." 
Following this, WRT team principal Vincent Vosse called on Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest for to ensure the safety of fans and participants in Friday's popular driver parade through the town.
In a statement, Vosse said: "The attention that Vale brings is obviously crazy and this we have seen for the past three years. In those three years, there has been no decrease in the attention he brings. 
"For the team, in coordination with the series, it means there are some obligations in terms of organisation before each event, and before each activity on site. 
"Our focus, from the moment everything is planned and organised in advance, is that the extra attention, the ‘craziness’ does not impact the way the team operates. 

Watch: 2024 Le Mans Preview With Allan McNish – Will Porsche Take Their 20th Win?

"Vale always spends extra time with his fans. Even when there is no scheduled autograph session, he takes time with his fans and he has done this every day at the tracks for the last three years - for these situations, the team handles the security. Each appearance goes smoothly due to the planning and organisation. 
"As a team, we have two priorities, safety and that we try to please as many fans as possible. When these activities are organised accurately, we can please more people and do it in a safe way. 
"We hope the organisers have taken note of what happened at yesterday’s autograph session and will take steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved at the driver parade on Friday.”
An ACO statement said: "Drivers' safety on and off the track is a priority for ACO. 
"The organisers stationed several security officers in the pit lane and no potential risks were reported before and during the autograph session. 
"Our discipline is growing in popularity and the fervour generated by the 24 Hours of Le Mans and its famous drivers is great. 
"We take remarks on board and will take steps to ensure that drivers feel more comfortable during the session next year."
#46 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Valentino Rossi

#46 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Valentino Rossi

Photo by: Andreas Beil

Rossi has attracted significant interest since his full-time switch to car racing in 2022, initially in WRT-run Audis before joining BMW's factory driver roster in December that year. 
He entered the WEC for the first time this season alongside parallel campaigns in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance and Sprint Cups, taking his most recent victory in Misano's Sprint Cup round last month alongside fellow BMW works driver Maxime Martin.
Rossi and Martin share with Al Harthy in the WEC, with the combination taking a best finish to date of second at Imola. 
Speaking to media on Wednesday, Rossi said he felt "comfortable in the track" after his initial foray last year to learn the ropes, and singled out the Porsche Curves as his favourite element of the 8.467-mile track.
Reflecting on his impressions of the layout, having raced on the shorter Bugatti Circuit in MotoGP where he scored French GP victories in 2002, 2005 and 2008, he said: "It's more than 200 kilometres average and you are always flat. 
"In the first part, you have a lot of hard braking for the for the chicane, that is good. 
"But at the same time, we have also a very fast corner in the last part, and also I love the longer tracks. 
#46 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Ahmad Al Harthy, Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin

#46 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Ahmad Al Harthy, Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

"This one is very long and I like. I feel comfortable and I enjoy when I drive." 
Rossi reaffirmed statements made earlier this year that his intention is to continue running a dual programme of WEC and GTWCE in 2025, which Martin has singled out as an important factor in his improvement.
The Belgian said that "the speed has been there from the beginning" but observed that Rossi has "really improved a lot in terms of understanding the procedures, not doing mistakes, being a lot more confident in the car".

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