Mirko Bortolotti says his adaptation to Audi after five years racing Lamborghinis is going well after the first few weeks and he has high hopes for this weekend’s Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai.
The Italian scored pole at the last two editions of the Dubai event, traditionally the first 24-hour race of the season, driving on both occasions for Grasser Racing Team.
He admits that a similar feat in Thursday afternoon’s qualifying session for this year’s race will be a challenge given his still unfamiliar surroundings at WRT, but he’s taking advantage of the experience surrounding him at the Belgian team.
“I feel really good, it’s the beginning of the new journey,” Bortolotti told Sportscar365. It’s really good to be back in Dubai, it’s always been good for me and us in the past.
“I was on pole last year and the year before so I look forward to finally getting the result in the race that we were missing in the last years, which is actually the main thing.
“It has only been two or three weeks [with Audi] so far. It is good to have my old engineer back, who I used to have in Grasser, Wim [Everaerts].
“He came [to WRT] at the end of 2018, so he has been here already for one year.”
In addition to being reunited with his former race engineer Everaerts, Bortolotti says he’s learning from his new fellow Audi Sport factory drivers.
This includes Kelvin van der Linde, who shares one of WRT’s two Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos this weekend with the Italian.
“It is great to have Kelvin in the car, we have been fighting him in the last few years in many different championships,” Bortolotti said.
“He’s one of the top Audi factory drivers, so it’s great to work with him. I think we have a strong lineup, not only in my car but also the sister car is really strong, which is great for the team.”
While the Audi and Lamborghini do have similarities and share the same mid-engined layout, Bortolotti says he hasn’t been able to draw too many comparisons so far because of differences in tire compounds.
“It is hard to say at the moment because on the Lambo I drove mainly on Pirelli tires, and now we are always moving from one tire manufacturer to the next one, which is Hankook and Michelin,” he explained.
“I have never driven the car on Pirellis so far, so it’s too early to say. At the moment, I feel quite good in the car, we are doing a good job, and we are focusing on what is the main target.
“I think it was a really good first couple of weeks for me from that perspective, and I obviously still need to learn the car properly to be at 100 percent, but I am looking forward to being there as soon as possible.
‘Hat-Trick’ Targeted at Rolex 24
With two consecutive class wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona under his belt, Bortolotti’s target for this year’s race, held in two weeks’ time, is firmly set on taking a third victory.
He’ll share the Audi Sport Team WRT Speedstar car with Dries Vanthoor, Daniel Morad and Rolf Ineichen in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opener, and came to Dubai straight off the back of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test.
“We did a good job of preparing for the race [last week], so I am really looking forward to being back in Daytona in two weeks’ time to defend the title, ideally,” he said.
“Daytona has been special for me in the last two years, no doubt about that. I think we will be in the mix, and we will need to have a perfect day in terms of strategy, performance, managing the race well.
“Then for sure we will get a chance but it is hard to say what is going to happen. The last four or five hours will be really crucial but I’m ready to fight and obviously the goal is to go for the hat-trick.”