Valentino Rossi considers a points result a “good target” for his number 46 WRT entry at Brands Hatch, where the Italian makes his Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup debut this weekend.
The motorcycle racing star will run the five-lap Sprint season alongside Frederic Vervisch in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II No. 46, run by defending champion WRT.
The pair had their first race together four weeks ago, when Nico Mueller joined them for the Endurance Cup curtain raise at Imola, where they finished 17th in the overall standings.
On his maiden trip to Brands, a historic motorcycle racing venue, Rossi told reporters he believes points are a realistic goal for him and Vervisch’s side of the WRT garage.
A multi-point sliding scale will be split among the top eight finishers in the Sprint Cup, with one point going to ninth and half a point to tenth.
“After the Imola race, I think we can fight for seventh, eighth, maybe sixth place,” said Rossi.
“The level is very high, there are a lot of fast drivers. It’s a little different here because we have fewer cars, but anyway, the top 15 is very strong.
“Trying to stay in the top 10 could be a good goal. It won’t be easy, but I think we can try.”
According to Rossi, the Sprint meeting at Brands Hatch will offer him “something different”. One aspect is that he will have to start one of the races after the middle stint in Italy.
All of Rossi’s previous sports car races have taken place in long-haul events such as the Endurance Cup and the Gulf 12 Hours.
“It’s the first sprint of the season, also the first sprint race for me, something other than endurance, especially you have to work on the pit stop so as not to lose time,” he said.
“Especially it’s my first time here at Brands Hatch. Unfortunately we can’t do tests in winter [at Brands Hatch so] I don’t know the track.
“I tested the track on the simulator. It’s a great job, fantastic. It’s hard, especially because you have a lot of places where it’s blind. You have to drive a lot of miles, I think, to understand the right way.
“The track is in fantastic condition with new asphalt. The layout is interesting, it’s a very old-fashioned track. We can’t wait until tomorrow to try out the car.
“We will try to analyze last year’s data and see our speed tomorrow.”
Rossi acknowledged that he still needs to ‘improve’ to keep up with the pace of his fellow Pro class competitors, although Brands is only the second stop in a ten-lap campaign.
His stint at Imola showed consistency and the ability to hold onto position, but the No.46 squad’s hopes for a points result were dashed when Rossi lost time by missing his pit box.
“My performance in Imola was not that bad,” he suggested.
“On the weekend you have a lot more problems. First of all you have a qualifying where you jump in the car without free practice because it is very early in the morning.
“You don’t have five laps to feel the car. So you have to go, blast and make your fastest lap. This is very difficult. After a day of testing it is easier to bring the car [to] the border.
“The good drivers make a big difference to me. I have to work from that point of view. My pace in the race wasn’t too bad, especially in the second half of the stint.
“I have to get to that performance because the fast guys are very strong from the first lap. I need to improve my driving skills.
“I’m not far from the top guys, but at least they’re a little faster than me, but it’s the start of the season. I have to try to improve race by race.”
Vervisch is confident in how the Evo II Audi will fare at Brands Hatch, after the redesigned car won from pole position at Imola in the hands of WRT’s number 32 crew.
“I think we will be competitive,” said the factory Audi Sport driver.
“The BoP has changed a bit because the Audis were very strong at Imola. It looks like we still have pace.
“We have more downforce and it’s a track with downforce. I expect we will be competitive and we’ve also made some changes to our car, which I think will help us both.
“We’ll see tomorrow and Sunday, but I think we can do something fun.”