Rossi was greeted at his home track in Italy, a short distance from hometown Tavullia, by hordes of yellow-clad fans and treated them to his best finish since retiring from MotoGP last year.

He and Team WRT teammate Frederic Vervisch finished fifth in Sunday’s sprint race in the GT World Challenge Europe.

Rossi, 43, skilfully defended P5 from Jules Gounon to bring home his #46 Audi.

A day earlier Rossi had spun during qualifying then he and Vervisch failed to finish the first sprint race of the weekend.

“I am happy as we took our best result so far in Race 2,” Rossi said. 

“Our starting position wasn’t very good but Fred managed to advance five positions in lap 1. 

“The pit stop was very fast and my pace was good, I could keep the position and P5 is a good result. 

“On Saturday, I had a good start but than lost two positions because of an incident ahead of me. 

“I was stuck behind a Mercedes, I tried to overtake but it was impossible and when we came to the pits for the driver change, I touched it slightly, puncturing the tyre and having some more damage, as we had to retire.”

Vervisch said: “Very happy with the result in Race 2 after a disappointing qualifying session and a difficult Race 1. It’s the best result for us in a Sprint, here at home for Vale. 

“He managed his stint very well, resisting well to the pressure, especially at the end. The podium is getting closer.”

WRT Team Principal Vincent Vosse said: “I am very happy for Vale, who takes his best result so far in front of his fans.”