New Dad, new car, new challenges | Valentino Rossi is all set for 2022

Valentino Rossi sees his new MotoGP team score points on its debut, become a father and reveal his 2022 racing plans in the space of a few days

Valentino Rossi - Team WRT Audi

While there may have been a time when one couldn’t possibly imagine a MotoGP season starting without Valentino Rossi, the opening round of the 2022 season in Qatar over the weekend proved you don’t need ‘the Doctor’ to bring the spectacle to the upper echelons of motorcycle racing.

As it happens, while Rossi’s physical presence was missed on the grid, thoughts of the man himself weren’t too far from the minds of anyone at the Lusail International Circuit.

Indeed, his branding remains very much in evidence on the grid with his VR46 Racing team making its full MotoGP debut with Luca Marini picking up a few points, while Marco Bezzecchi was undoubtedly the - unexpected - front runner of the rookies, despite having the ignominy of being the season’s first DNF with a crash while battling on the fringes of the top ten.

Still, Rossi did enjoy some success in absentia with his more established Moto2 outfit taking a dominant pole position and victory with Celestino Vietti.

More excitingly for Rossi, however, he became a father for the first time over the weekend as he and Francesca Novello welcomed their daughter - Giulietta - into the world… fittingly on 4 March, the first day of track action in Qatar.

Not that he is able to bask in his new role for too long as Rossi has been straight back on track in his new endeavour as a driver in the GT World Challenge series with pre-season testing getting underway at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France on Monday.

The scene of his 46 emblazoned, fluro-yellow WRT Audi R8 being unveiled, it was also confirmed Rossi would spend his season sharing the sportscar with experienced Belgian racer Frederic Vervisch, a race winner in the GT World Challenge and World Touring Car Cup. Swiss racer Nico Muller - a podium winner in Formula E and DTM race winner - will join them for the blue riband Spa 24 Hours endurance race.