MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi will do a full season in the new LMGT3 category of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with BMW, including competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, organisers confirmed this week.
The LMGT3 category replaces the LMGTE class that has been on the WEC grid since 2012, as the series will now cater for Hypercars and GT3 cars.
Rossi, 44, will be making his Le Mans 24 Hours debut next June in the number 46 car — the same number he raced with on two wheels in a career that brought him nine world championships. Record entries are confirmed for not only the iconic around-the-clock race, but also for WEC.
The Italian, who also owns the VR46 MotoGP team, won a Road to Le Mans support race this year, said in a statement: “I am very excited to compete in the FIA WEC. It is the next step for me to participate in a world championship, not only in Europe but to race globally again.
“I am already familiar with the car after this season, but the format with three drivers from three different performance categories will be new for me. Overall, I believe we will be very well positioned,” added Rossi.
Kubica signs for Ferrari Hypercar team
Polish former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica will be driving a Ferrari in the top Hypercar category of the championship with the AF Corse team after winning the now-defunct LMP2 category.
Mick Schumacher, a Mercedes F1 reserve driver and son of Ferrari great Michael, will be making his Hypercar debut in the series with Renault-owned Alpine.
Championship organisers published the entry list on Monday with a record 19 Hypercars and 14 manufacturers represented across both classes. The LMGT3 class has 18 entries.
The manufacturers are Alpine, Aston Martin, BMW, Cadillac, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Peugeot, Porsche and champions Toyota. Nine of them will be competing in the Hypercar championship.
McLaren have partnered with United Autosports to make their LMGT3 debut.
“To have an entry list featuring 19 Hypercars plus 18 LMGT3 entries representing 14 different manufacturers truly reflects the golden era of endurance racing that we are experiencing right now,” said WEC chief executive Frederic Lequien. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)