MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi got his 24 Hours of Spa weekend officially underway as he joined his Monster VR46 WRT Audi team-mates in posting the 17th quickest time during first free practice around the Belgian circuit.
However, it was an inauspicious start for the #46 crew after Nico Muller – who joins Rossi and Frederic Vervisch once more as its third driver for Endurance events – suffered a crash that prompted a red flag period and limited track time.
With free practice preceding two qualifying sessions later today – pre-qualifying in the afternoon and group qualifying held at dusk – Rossi, Vervisch and Muller were just a second off the ultimate pace prior to Muller’s off with a 2min 18.675s, despite being classified at the lower end of the top twenty.
There was better news for their Team WRT stablemates, however, as Dries Vanthoor flew the Belgian flag with the quickest time of the session, the home hope stopping the clock at 2m 17.559s
Four different manufacturers filled the top four positions with the Herberth Porsche just 0.017s off the top in second place, with the Winward Mercedes and Rowe BMW slotting into third and fourth.
The centrepiece of the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe season, Rossi will make his round-the-clock race debut this weekend as he looks to build on a solid start to his full-time four-wheel racing career in the GT World Challenge Europe.
Unlike other Endurance races on the schedule, the Spa 24 Hours awards points for positions held at the six and twelve-hour mark, before full points are awarded again at the chequered flag.
Rossi comes into the Spa 24 Hours on the back of a season’s best fifth place finish at Paul Ricard, lifting the VR46 trio up to eighth in the overall standings.