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Legend within a legend: Valentino Rossi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Doctor is - ironically - the 46th motorcyclist to participate. In qualifying he was 12th in the GT3 class, and at 4 p.m. Saturday he will begin one of the most special days of his career

Auto - News: Legend within a legend: Valentino Rossi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Not all races are the same, there are some that are transformed, become legend and their name contains more than what they represent. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of them, a day-long orgasm of speed. Mulsanne, Hunaudières are not mere words for those who live on fuel and adrenaline. It is only natural that another legend, Valentino Rossi, would want to take part at least once and he will do so this weekend. Last year, to cut his teeth, he had raced the Road to Le Mans (winning it), but it's this year that he's getting serious.

The Doctor has been able to realize these days what the world's most famous 24 Hours means, an event where the race is the culmination of a week of excitement. The public has gone crazy for Valentino, the assault is constant and warm-hearted, between autographs and selfies. Rossi has been approching the race with his usual irony, posing in flip-flops with Albi Tebaldi and Max Montanari as if they were on a beach vacation.

Irrespective of all the laughter and levity, however, there is the usual serious business to get on with because the Doctor is not on the La Sarthe circuit just to participate. He is entered in the GT3 class, with the BMW M4 of the WRT team, Maxime Martin and Ahmad Al Harthy completing the crew. Yesterday he and his two teammates had to do qualifying, 12th time and missing out on the Hyperpole (only the top 8 enter at Le Mans). They will start behind, even from the 51st slot on the grid, behind of course the Hypercars and LMP2s with which they are sharing the race. "We are disappointed, we know exactly where we are losing and it's a bit of a difficult situation. It's frustrating because our expectations for this race are high and we know we have a strong team," commented team principal Vincent Vosse.

It will be a bit of an uphill start, 50 cars in front, as if you are starting from the next town, but that is the game of racing, which Valentino knows well. In night practice the BMW was 5th, a sign that all is not lost. Especially in a race that lasts a day, where everything changes or can change: the light, the weather, the temperatures. Said like that it would sound like a nightmare, but for a racer it is a dream.

No one wants to forego it, and the history of the race is full of riders who have doubled their wheels to be there.John Surtees and Mike Hailwood, Johnny Cecotto and Wayne Gardner, just to name a few. Now Valentino is on the list, and - a sign of destiny - he is the 46th motorcycle racer to participate.

"The big moment has arrived," he said a few days ago. The legend of motorcycling in the most legendary of car races, it can be said that however it goes it will be a success. Not for those who are there to race, to thrill and excite again, at the age of 45 and after a lifetime of racing. It is the magic of Le Mans that no one can escape.

Two more free practice sessions today, then the wait until 4 p.m. Saturday, when it all really begins. Let's meet again the next day under the finish line to find out if it's time to celebrate.

Live coverage of the race is on Eurosport, the Discovery+ app and fiawec.tv.

 

Translated by Julian Thomas

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