‘Completely different’ – A MotoGP rider’s winter challenge - The Race
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‘Completely different’ – A MotoGP rider’s winter challenge

Jan 6 2022
By Simon Patterson

Over the past few years, more and more MotoGP riders have dabbled in four-wheeled racing, most famously with Valentino Rossi’s attempts at endurance racing, rallying and even a spot of F1 testing for Ferrari.

That trend has only continued in recent years and while there’s little to nothing to be gained for their MotoGP careers, it provides riders with a fun off-season challenge.

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VR46 Ducati MotoGP rider Luca Marini believes there’s “zero that helps with MotoGP” as he prepares to compete in this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours endurance race in a GT3 car alongside former team manager Uccio Salucci and former GP3 racer turned GT regular David Fumanelli.

But Marini still believes it will be a “great experience” and also explained how it’s easier to go from racing bikes to cars, than from racing cars to bikes.

“For sure there’s less pressure – but it’s another kind of pressure,” he explained. “It’s another experience, but a great experience. I’m really happy to be a part of this race, with this equipment, with this team. I would like to also be fast in the cars, to do other races too, when my calendar gives me the opportunity.

“With the cars it’s easier. To arrive two seconds from the top guys isn’t easy, but you can do it. But when you have to be one of the fastest, to find the last second or second and a half, it’s difficult. Like in motorbikes, to arrive in Moto2 and to take two seconds from the front guys is hard. In a car it’s easier – you just sit down, you don’t have to move, just play with the throttle, brake, steering wheel.

“And what changes the most for us is the risk, the level of danger. And with a bike, before you push you have to take a lot of confidence, but in a car you can push from the beginning. Everything feels safer, and this changes things a lot.”

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Marini was originally set to compete alongside half brother and MotoGP boss Valentino Rossi at the event at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit, but that plan took a hit when the nine-time world champion was forced to self-isolate at home in Italy after coming into contact with someone suffering from COVID-19.

That leaves the task of racing at the event, which the trio won last year in the Pro-Am class, to Marini, Salucci and late replacement Fumanelli.

“It’s something good maybe for the focus, because when you have to push and to set the lap time you have to be as precise as on the motorcycle,” the 24-year-old added. “But it’s completely different, nothing really similar.”

But while it might not necessarily make him faster on a Desmosedici, he says that it’s still worthwhile to put in the effort needed to drive the Kessel Racing Ferrari there because of both the fun time they have and the competitive buzz it gives.

And while Rossi might not be a part of the team now, Marini should be confident that they can still be competitive, especially after enjoying a successful day-long test outing just before the conclusion of the MotoGP season in November.

“We didn’t drive so much because it was raining all the morning,” he explained of their outing at Misano, “and with the rain tyres it isn’t so useful. We have a plan to do the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi and it’s very difficult to have rain there. But we took the test just to remember the feelings in the car and to understand if there are some changes compared to the car we had last year.

“It was a quite positive day, especially for Uccio to drive the car again and to some back to the pace a driver needs to have. He’s stayed off racing for many months, so it’s not as easy for him. But he was really fast in the wet conditions especially.

“In the last part of the day, the track dried and we put in the slick tyres and the lap time wasn’t as fast as always. We were a little slower, just to not take any risk ahead of the next race.”

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