After a season with Audi, Mirko Bortolotti returned to Lamborghini in 2021 for a shot at the biggest GT3 races in the world. Joining the squad of his former teammate Andrea Caldarelli, pole positions have been plentiful in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS but race wins kept eluding the FFF Racing Team – until the 3-hour race at the Nürburgring.
With Jules Gounon chasing Bortolotti for the final moments of the race, the Italian kept his cool to secure his first victory since coming back to Lamborghini.
“Finally, we managed to get the result we deserved,” Bortolotti says.
“I’m really happy with this, it’s the result of hard work and great work throughout the weekend and I’m really proud of this.
“It’s never easy in this championship because it’s one of the most competitive GT3 championships in the world, so it doesn’t matter who you are fighting, it’s always high level. Obviously, Jules is one of the fastest GT3 drivers out there so you always have to be on your toes trying not to make any mistakes because the smallest mistake will be taken by your opponent, it doesn’t matter who it is.
“I’m really happy that we got to bring it home because I think we deserved to win today.”
Victory finally came FFF Racing’s way, having scored pole positions in Monza and at Circuit Paul Ricard, as well as leading the 24 Hours of Spa for many hours until several setbacks, including a puncture in the final hours, dropped them down the order.
Bortolotti admits that it hasn’t been easy, knowing they had the pace but not the luck to convert potential into success.
“It’s not frustrating but it’s definitely character building because in some situations we were denied a win through things that were out of our control. For example, in Monza we were leading and after half an hour we had a technical issue. This is part of motorsport, there is nothing you can do. We know we have a reliable car, we proved it in the past, but it hurts even more when it happens in such an important race.
“It is how it is; it definitely compromised our season in Endurance because when you lose potentially 25 points in a five-round championship, it definitely is something that hurts and compromises everything but there is nothing you can do from the driver’s perspective or from the team’s perspective, there’s no one to blame.
“We put our head down and kept working, we showed it in Paul Ricard and in Spa. For different reasons we couldn’t win those two races and finally today we managed to win again in Endurance.”
Further down the pits WRT meanwhile celebrates its own success, having just wrapped up the GT World Challenge Europe overall championship by way of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts. Although having been part of the Audi family for just one season – racing with WRT and winning in Imola – the 31-year-old takes pride in what he achieved even if it was short-lived, and the contribution he made to Audi’s eventual success.
“I’m a professional so as a professional in this sport you know how it is, you have to be really professional,” Mirko explains his decision to take a break from Lamborghini, the brand he has raced with since the manufacturer first came onto the GT3 scene with its own car.
“When there is an opportunity like in every other sport you take certain decisions, and you go a certain way, and I really enjoyed my time with Audi. It was very important and I’m really happy with what we managed to do together. My last win before today was the win with Audi at Imola last year so I have really good memories with them.
“We made a really good job together last year and I think it’s proven also in the results WRT are having today, I think that there is some work that we did together last year because motorsport is always a process. You see the results but the reason for that and the work behind start way earlier than that, it’s not made on that day directly.”
Just as shocking as the news was of Bortolotti’s move to Audi for 2020, equally shocking was his quick return to Lamborghini just one year after.
“I had the opportunity to continue with Audi or go back to Lamborghini who were pushing really hard trying to get me back. They did everything to have me back on board and at the end of the day I took the decision to come back. Not because I didn’t like Audi, but because I’m a professional and in certain situation you have to take the decision for yourself and at that time it was the best decision for me.”
Back at the Squadra Corse, Bortolotti reunited with FFF Racing Team co-owner and his 2017 Blancpain GT co-champion Andrea Caldarelli. Joined aboard the traditional #63 Bolognese bull by 2019 Blancpain GT champion Marco Mapelli, the trio and the rest of the team immediately gelled.
“It’s definitely cool [to be back with Andrea Caldarelli] because we didn’t need much time to learn about each other. We know each other really well so before the first race in Monza we did just two days of testing in Vallelunga and then we went straight to the first race. That’s what I define as quality, quality is really important, and I think we have plenty of quality here, all the procedures and work we do together is really handled easily.”
With momentum now picking up, Mirko Bortolotti is first and foremost looking to wrap up the season on a high.
“Before thinking about next year we still have to think about this year, there is still almost half a season to go in this championship and other championships. The focus is fully on 2021, trying to finish the season as good as we can, trying to keep the momentum up and trying to perform well in Barcelona and other races that we do.
“After that we will think about 2022, but there is already definitely a lot going on and everything is moving. The only thing I can tell for sure is that I will stay with Lamborghini in GT3, obviously, and the programmes will be announced very soon so we can start preparing for next season early.”
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