Hype about Valentino Rossi and Co.

“I’ve been coming to Spa since I was two years old, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. The crowd was just amazing!” The enormous number of spectators at the WEC race in Belgium even amazed 42-year-old Porsche works driver and three-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer in an interview Motorsport-Magazin.com.

88,180 fans flocked to the traditional Belgian circuit from Thursday to the race on Saturday to cheer in the stands for the third race of the season in the World Endurance Championship. All-time record for a WEC racing weekend, with the exception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, of course, where more than 300,000 fans turn up every year.

WEC Spa: Highlights and summary of the race (14:27 mins)

Gigantic Rossi hype in the WEC

The long-missed and now rekindled WEC boom knows hardly any limits. Even three weeks ago in Imola, where the spectators are primarily interested in Formula 1 and tend to turn down sports car races – greetings from the DTM – the seats and natural grandstands were packed. 73,600 spectators traveled to Imola, not least to cheer on motorsport superstar Valentino Rossi at his home race.

The gigantic Rossi hype did not stop at Spa-Francorchamps. Real crowds of fans were almost camped in front of the garage of the Belgian WRT team, for which ‘Vale’ competes in the WEC in the #46 BMW M4 GT3. Unsurprisingly, Rossi is always surrounded by security and his management so as not to be overwhelmed by the enthusiastic fans.

Spectators at the WEC race in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Full house at the WEC race in Spa, photo: WEC/DPPI

BMW M boss: “Valentino Rossi is an icon of sport”

“He’s an icon of the sport, there aren’t many of them,” said Franziskus van Meel, Managing Director of BMW M GmbH, in Spa Motorsport-Magazin.com. “People just want to see him because he’s a very special guy.” In all these years we have never seen an active racing driver even get through the starting grid before the race without the help of a security employee…

The WEC paddocks are a real paradise for autograph and selfie hunters, even in the absence of Signore Rossi. The fans quickly found out which routes the drivers had to take to get to the garage or hospitality after a session or briefing. In Imola and Spa we observed that pretty much every driver took their time with the spectators, who ultimately make motorsport possible.

Hours of traffic jams don’t dampen the mood in the spa

The atmosphere in Spa was incomparable, even though thousands of spectators – and the author of these lines – were stuck in traffic for up to three hours early in the morning on race Saturday. Whether this was due to a construction site in Francorchamps or defective scanning devices in the parking lots is anyone’s guess. Once we got to the route and were greeted by sunshine (in Spa! In May!), all the frustration of traffic jams was forgotten.

The fact that the WEC visitors were largely interested in specialist subjects was evident not only from the numerous merchandise products in Spa: as that When the race had to be interrupted for two hours, only a few thousand spectators made their way home early. When the good news of an injury time lasting 1:44 hours was announced after the long forced break, there was a standing ovation in the full stands.

Spectators at the WEC race in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Almost 90,000 spectators watched the WEC in Spa, Photo: WEC/DPPI

Anyone who wants to watch a WEC race live in Europe will unfortunately come too late. The approximately 300,000 tickets available for the 24 Hours of Le Mans were sold out after three days.

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