Valentino Rossi gets to drive all the cool cars
The Doctor's list of 4 wheeled joyrides is pretty impressive
Even if you're not interested in motorcycles at all, you probably still know who Valentino Rossi is. 9 Moto GP World Championship titles and a win count that goes into 3 digit territory have solidified him as one of the all time greats. But "The Doctor" has proven to be quite handy at the controls of 4 wheeled machines as well. A podium finish at the Bahrain 12H and an impressive 7 wins at the annual Monza Rally show are a testament to that.
Being a living legend has its fair share of benefits as it gets you quite a bit of leverage when you fancy a drive in a certain car. And throughout the years Rossi has found himself behind the wheel of several iconic race cars seemingly just for fun.
From GT racing monsters to Le Mans legends, Rossi has driven them all. While most of these were indeed opportunistic joyrides, one drive in particular could have resulted in quite the career change.
Maserati MC12 GT1
Rossi took the wheel of a Maserati MC12 in a test session at Misano in 2006. The over 600 horsepower strong cousin of the Ferrari Enzo was a dominant force when it came to mid 2000's GT racing.
The car belonged to team Racing Box who were preparing for the upcoming Italian GT Championship. Rossi was dating Arianna Matteuzzi at the time who is the daughter of Gabriele Matteuzzi, the owner of the team. A father letting his daughter's boyfriend drive his car is pretty rare. But you can't really say no to Rossi can you?
14 laps later and the Doctor returned back to the pits after clocking a laptime of 1 minute 27 seconds. Almost equally as fast as all the other drivers and teams testing the MC12 that day.
Several Ferrari F1 cars
It shouldn't be a surprise that Italy's most popular rider gets along well with Italy's most popular racing team. It's no secret that Rossi had very close ties with Ferrari back in the day ever since they invited him for a drive in their F1 car at Fioriano in 2004.
Rossi drove a Ferrari F1 car 5 more times between 2005 and 2010 always posting impressive laptimes in the process. Even the great Michael Schumacher was impressed and had to double check Rossi's laptimes as he couldn't believe the natural pace he had in an F1 car.
A career switch was a legitimate possibility for Rossi in 2006 as Schumacher was about to retire. The Scuderia had an entire road map laid out for him as a test driver with the chance of becoming a full time driver later on. Raikkonen ended up taking the seat but one can imagine what would have happened if the Doctor decided to follow in the footsteps of John Surtees.
NASCAR stock car
In 2013 Rossi went to the home of NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He met up with Kyle Bush who is quite the successful stock car racer with dozens, if not hundreds of race wins across several categories.
Because Monster Energy is a mutual sponsor, Rossi had the opportunity to take Kyle's 650 horsepower Toyota Camry around the iconic oval. Again he proved to be quite competent behind the wheel of yet another kind of race car as he gradually picked up the pace lap by lap.
Just how fast did he go you might ask? Fast enough to be in the top 15 if this was an actual qualifying session. Pretty good for a guy who hadn't even been on an oval before. Kyle Busch's coach Joe Gibbs said he'd legitimately consider giving Rossi a contract.
Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+
Someone who's also sponsored by Monster Energy is 6 time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Seeing as the Kyle Larson car swap was so successful Monster Energy arranged for Rossi to drive Lewis' 2017 title winning F1 car. The ridiculously named W08 EQ Power+.
The event happened just a few months ago in December 2019. While the Merc wasn't the latest model, it's understandable why the 2017 model was picked of the later ones featuring the Halo device. It proved to be a good decision in the end as Rossi mentioned having to get used to the bad visibility caused by sitting low in the car.
Despite the visibility, and the need to get used to this whole new era of F1 cars compared to the mid-2000's Ferrari's he drove earlier, Rossi made no mistakes and reportedly had an immense amount of fun. Hamilton did too as he got to ride Rossi's Yamaha YZR-M1.
Mazda 787B, Porsche 962 and Lancia Delta S4
Rossi made his long overdue visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2015 and I had the privilege to be there. I can only describe his arrival as the second coming of Christ. The crowd went nuts.
Off course the FoS is always home the greatest collection of motor racing machinery on the planet so Rossi had his fair share of opportunistic drives. First he went up the hill in Derek Bell's Porsche 962. Then he fancied a ride in Lancia's Delta S4 Group B weapon.
Last but not least he had a go in the the 1991 24H of Le Mans winning Mazda 787B. Rossi was actually supposed to be on a flight back home instead of driving this short but extremely legendary list or race cars but again, who says no to Rossi?