Valentino Rossi out of Gulf 12 Hours due to COVID-19 contact

Retired MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi will miss this month’s Gulf 12 Hours endurance race due to being a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Nine-time grand prix motorcycle world champion Rossi was scheduled to make his now-regular Gulf 12 Hours appearance in Abu Dhabi with the Kessel Racing squad in a Ferrari 488 GT3.

A class winner and overall podium finisher at previous events, Rossi was set to share a car with close friend Alessio Salucci and half-brother and current MotoGP rider Luca Marini.

However, Kessel Racing has announced Rossi was identified as a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in self-isolation.

As a result, Rossi will be absent from this weekend's Gulf 12 Hours, which is due to begin with the first practice sessions on Thursday.

Salucci and Marini will still compete, with former GP3 racer and GT regular David Fumanelli taking Rossi's place.

A brief statement from Kessel Racing read: "Valentino Rossi will not attend the Gulf 12 Hours, scheduled on Saturday, 8 January.

"The nine-time world champion had a contact with a person positive to COVID-19 so is self-quarantined.

"Luca Marini and Alessio Salucci are still confirmed, and they will regularly race the Abu Dhabi endurance together with David Fumanelli on the Ferrari 488 GT3 #46."

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This year's Gulf 12 Hours was due to act as a prologue for a wider campaign in GT racing in 2022 for Rossi, who retired from MotoGP at the end of last season.

Rossi recently tested an Audi R8 for World Endurance Championship squad WRT, though is yet to firm up his car racing plans for this year.

Over the years Rossi has tested Formula 1 machinery, contested World Rally Championship events on top of his one-off GT endurance outings, with the Italian keen to one day compete at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Rossi has previously had COVID-19, catching the virus in October of 2020 and forcing him to miss the Aragon double-header that year.

In 2022 Rossi's VR46 squad will step up to MotoGP with Marini and rookie Marco Bezzecchi riding Ducatis, with the team confirming recently that Italian finance firm Mooney will be its title sponsor – ending a months-long debacle involving Saudi oil giant Aramco.

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