MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi has tried his hand at another form of motorsport. After tests in a Ferrari Formula 1 car and World Rally Championship appearances peppered through his career, he has now sampled NASCAR.
The day after his sixth-place finish in round two of the 2013 MotoGP season at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, the Italian rider headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. There he swapped his Yamaha YZR-M1 for Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Toyota Camry.
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With a 650bhp 5.9-litre V8 engine (and, of course, four wheels) it’s somewhat different to seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi’s usual company vehicle, and as such it took him a few laps to adjust. ‘At the beginning it was a bit strange because it’s difficult to go straight. But after some laps, I had a lot of confidence and I was able to go faster and faster and faster’, said Rossi.
‘In the bank you have a lot of grip, so you are glued on the racetrack. It was great, I enjoyed it a lot. I love driving the race car, and I always have, so it was exciting to drive a NASCAR.’
Valentino’s racing experience – including those dabbles with four wheels – ensured he wasn’t a fish out of water, running at a pace that would put him in the top 15 of NASCAR Nationwide Series practice.
Rossi has previously stated that he’ll compete in rallying once his MotoGP career has wound down. ‘When I finish in motorcycles I will do some programme in rallying. Maybe not the full world championship because it's very hard, but maybe a programme of six or seven races in a season’ he said in 2012.
His best WRC finish was an 11th place in a Subaru in the 2006 Rally of New Zealand, while he achieved 12th behind the wheel of a Ford Focus in 2008 Rally GB in Wales.