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Rossi fever hits Bathurst 12 Hour

MOTOGP legend Valentino Rossi is eagerly awaiting his first laps of Mount Panorama after a hero’s welcome on setup day at the Bathurst 12 Hour.

A nine-time world champion on two-wheels, the popular Italian has turned his hand to GT racing since retiring from MotoGP at the end of 2021.

Linking with Belgian squad WRT has this year resulted in a switch from Audi to BMW and a start in Australia’s international endurance race.

Rossi is paired with Brazilian Augusto Farfus and Belgian Maxime Martin in one of the team’s two M4 GT3s.

Rossi’s BMW on track for a photoshoot. Pic: Supplied

The 43-year-old Rossi was undoubtedly the star of an autograph session in the centre of Bathurst today as excitement builds for the weekend.

“I spent a long time in Australia in my life, a lot of times in Phillip Island for the MotoGP,” said Rossi, who won eight times at Phillip Island, including six times in the premier class.

“The fan(s) are very strong for motorsport and it’s always a great feeling.

“The first time for me in Bathurst will be very different but the place looks fantastic, it’s incredible.

“I always drove just with the sim, but before we did the one lap and it’s an incredible track.

“All the drivers say it is also very beautiful. We will wait tomorrow to try with the car.”

Rossi was swamped by fans at the autograph session. Pic: Supplied

Rossi’s first public appearance in Bathurst was part of the event’s ‘Town to Track’ tradition, in which the full field of cars are driven from the circuit to the autograph session.

Bathurst 12 Hour regulars such as Supercars legend and 2017 race winner Jamie Whincup noted that the event is benefitting from Rossi’s presence.

Although only attracting a 26-car field, this year marks a return to fully professional entries after COVID-19 resulted in the 2021 race being cancelled and 2022 being held as a Pro-Am.

 “The event is growing, which is great,” said Whincup, who is sharing a Triple Eight Mercedes in the Pro-Am Class with Richie Stanaway and Prince Jefri Ibrahim.

A Rossi-themed Fiat pictured in Bathurst. Pic: Supplied

“The weather is a huge factor, but Valentino Rossi is a huge factor as well, let’s not deny that.

“All those things combined, a fantastic turn out (in town) and hopefully everyone has a good weekend.”

Four practice sessions for the 12 Hour entrants will take place on Friday, with Practice 2 and 3 for Bronze rated drivers only.

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