Abu Dhabi: Motorsport in the Middle East has made rapid progress in the last decade or so and there can’t be a better judge than MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, who was impressed with the way growth of the sport in the region.
“Year on year the passion for motorsport is growing and that’s very interesting for the region,” Rossi told Gulf News on the sidelines of the 13th edition of the Gulf 12 Hours at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi recently.
“There’s lot of fantastic tracks here in the Middle East for cars as well as bikes. That shows the interest. I think it’s in the right path and I hope to see the passion increase in the future that can help the sport grow further,” he added.
The nine-time world champion though missed the top finish in the finale of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season, his Team WRT finished on the podium. He, along with teammates Dries Vanthoor and Nick Yelloy, took the second spot.
“The target was to arrive on the podium. We did a great race, close to perfect one and we could fight for victory. We lost a bit in the pit, if not we could fight to the last corner. But we are very happy because we were competitive. It is a good way to end the season.”
Despite missing out on the title, the Italian driver, popularly nicknamed as The Doctor, finished positively on the weekend and looked forward to continuing his endurance racing career.
“In 2024 I will continue to race with the GT with the M4 but we will change the championship and we will also race in the WEC that is the world championship.
“And there are a lot of important races, like especially the 24 hours of Le Mans. But anyway, we will also continue in the championship of this year, so next year is an interesting programme,” he said.
After having announced his retirement from riding in MotoGP at the end of the 2021 season, the 44-year-old hardly wasted any time to switch to four wheels in 2022 where he joined with Team WRT for a full-time campaign in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe series.
“It was always in my mind you know to race with cars after I finish with the bike,” Rossi said about getting into the cars. “Sometimes you race in the same track and there are other good tracks where you can only race with the car and not with bikes. Now the switch gives me the opportunity to try different tracks. Also, MotoGP is always 40-minute race and endurance is different. So I’m enjoying it.”