Mirko Bortolotti: “Great to see Lamborghini again”

After barely a season with Audi Sport, the Italian decided to return to Sant'Agata Bolognese to forge his future in the Lamborghini fold. Confession of one of the references of the GT3 category.

Published on 28/05/2021 à 09:00

Pierre Tassel

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He had left his family of Lamborghini Squadra Corse for the cousins ​​of the firm with the rings in the inter-season 2019-2020 for what had constituted one of the most serious “war takes” of these last years in GT. Mainly aligned under the WRT banner, Mirko Bortolotti had quickly found his marks within the German brand, narrowly missing the victory at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.

After a 2020 campaign disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the announcement of his return to Italy took the whole paddock by surprise. Back in the fold with which he ruled the European scene with Grasser Racing Team in 2017, the former 2011 Formula 2 champion looks back at the reasons for this career choice, in a period for Lamborghini's future in endurance racing could go beyond GT3 in the more or less short term.

How has this transitional winter been for you?

2020 has been a special year with the situation we are in. It was a long season until December with the last race at Kyalami in the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The winter was short because we restarted at the very beginning of January, but in fact quite normal, with a fortnight to settle down, which has advantages because we keep the rhythm.

What is your analysis of your time at Audi?

The season has been very good in every way. Everything went well with them, even if it was a different philosophy from the way Lamborghini operates. The experience with Audi was rewarding, because it was a huge challenge to go to them, when I was in a position where I had been part of a brand for so many years, where I was able to prove my worth, and where I won victories and titles in international races.

I had to adapt to a new car and work with top-level drivers who had been used to Audi for several years. I also had to change teammates depending on the race and the brand's choices. It was interesting and I was also able to work with different teams, and because of the limited time due to the Covid-19, it was not easy. The year I probably needed the most testing, there was very little.

So I had to learn very quickly, much faster than normally when you change teams, manufacturers or cars. WRT helped me a lot in these areas. I learned a lot, and I was able to show quickly that I was in the rhythm. There was never a comfort zone for me. Once you start to feel that way, that's probably the time in life when you're most at risk. It's always good to have a little pressure and push yourself to improve. 2020 was extremely positive for me in that regard.

What was the main reason for your return to Lamborghini?

As a professional, and like any top athlete in sports, sometimes in your life you are in a position to make important decisions. Lamborghini started discussions quite early in 2020, to understand what the future might look like. I have to say that the past year has been different in terms of the world situation and that has changed a lot of plans, not only in everyday life, but also in motorsport.

You had to look at how many programs were going to be stopped, how many changed or emerged. It's always changing and you never know what the future will bring. You have to be flexible and understand what the next step might be, and in what direction to go. Everyone has to make their own decisions and what is the best option available on the table.

I had the opportunity to continue with Audi, but a big offer from Lamborghini came in. They know me well and wanted me back in their sports program. In the end, I decided to accept. There was no main reason, or the fact that I didn't feel comfortable with Audi, either with the car or on a human level.

The start of the campaign was not the best at Monza with the technical problems with your Lamborghini. How do you feel about the rest of the season?

You can't single out a favorite and anyone can win or not. You have to focus on yourself, and I can't judge what others are doing. I think we have a good base, with a strong team and a proven car. We are well prepared and we know each other well with Andrea (Caldarelli) and Marco (Mapelli), even though we haven't driven together so often in the past.

I won the Endurance Cup championship with Andrea in 2017 (with Christian Engelhart as third man, ed. note). We don't need a lot of time to match up. The experience of 2020 has taught me to adapt to any situation. But that alone is not enough, you have to be present on the track, and at key moments you have to make the right choices. You can be the fastest, but that doesn't necessarily mean winning the championship. Experience in this championship is really important.

There's also the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the Nürburgring program with FFF and the ADAC GT Masters with Grasser Racing Team. It will be a busy campaign. On the Nordschleife we ​​will have the support of Hankook, and it will be a real challenge, with a lot of development on the tires.


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Are you enjoying the challenge of this track?

I love it. Last year was my debut with Audi and the program came before the IGTC and the 24 Hours of Spa. I was leading the Endurance series and couldn't keep my chances in the championship. That's how it is sometimes in motorsport. On the Nordschleife, we finished 2nd on my debut. It was fantastic, but at the same time a little bitter, because we were still leading with 40 minutes to go and a mistake cost us the victory against BMW.

With a specific focus on the 24 Hours of Spa, which are you still refusing to enter?

In GT World Challenge Europe, it will be the highlight of the year as always. We are not doing the sprint, and the objective will not only be the 24 Hours but the Endurance Championship.

You are back with FFF Racing, with whom you raced in Macau in 2016 and 2017. How has the team evolved?

When I drove for them, they were just starting out. So it's great to see how much they have grown over the years. They have put themselves in the suit of one of the top teams in GT World Challenge. We haven't been able to do a lot of testing, but with our knowledge of each other coupled with the knowledge of the car now being at its peak, there won't be much to reinvent.

Of course, there are always details that can be improved. I think we are ready and everyone is ultra motivated. In 2019, the season was exceptional (Drivers and Teams titles in the combined Sprint and Endurance standings, Drivers and Teams titles in the Endurance Cup and Drivers title in the Sprint Cup), a little less so in 2020. The aim is to get back into the fight for the top places.

Do you have any plans to return to IMSA this year after the 24 Hours of Daytona?

I don't think so. With the IGTC starting late, it will be complicated. The GRT teams are set up and the car I drove at Daytona was only supposed to race there.

You are also reunited with Grasser in the ADAC, with whom you have a special relationship. Did that influence your decision to return to Lamborghini?

Honestly, no. Because it's a decision made for my career in a global sense. We can't just base it on emotions. It's already great to be back at Lamborghini, but it would be wrong to say that I came back to them because I was going to drive for GRT. Of course, the connection is there and will remain, as will the friendship. But whenever I can drive for a Lamborghini customer team, I'm always up for it.

Could we see you in a prototype eventually?

Never say never. I already had offers for a program this winter, but in the end it didn't fit with my priority with Lamborghini and GT3. I do and will obviously do what the brand expects of me. It depends on the opportunities, but my priority remains my commitment to Lamborghini. They want me to be in their overall project and in the main programs. If there is a possibility to go beyond that, it will be an opportunity to study the feasibility. But if there is a date conflict, there will be no discussions.

While knowing that you have to prepare the future of Lamborghini, especially in GT (Sant'Agata Bolognese aims to introduce an Evo 2 kit for its Huracan GT3) …

Yes… (laughs) I'm concentrating on the current sports programs at the moment. I can not answer more, because that belongs to Giorgio Sanna (director of Lamborghini Squadra Corse). He will give more details about the future. But whatever the brand chooses, it can count on me. I'm ready to help with the next step.

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