Mirko Bortolotti said he was “on the edge” with fuel in the final hour of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, admitting he could have lost out on GT Daytona class victory had there not been a late-race yellow.
The Lamborghini factory driver held off a hard-charging Andy Lally for Grasser Racing Team’s second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory, after achieving back-to-back Rolex 24 at Daytona class wins in January’s season-opener.
While benefiting from a pair of spins and the race-ending red flag at Daytona, Bortolotti had the challenge of conserving fuel in his two-hour closing stint on Saturday, while being under pressure from the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo of Lally.
A full-course caution for the damaged No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Bill Auberlen with 15 minutes remaining proved to be the turning point for the Austrian squad, which managed to hold on for top class honors.
It’s understood its Lamborghini had only 2 liters of fuel left in its tank post-race.
“Without the yellow it was on the edge,” Bortolotti said. “It was really, really hard to keep Andy behind and safe fuel for two hours.
“Of course the safety car helped a little bit at the end, but it would have been just enough to finish.”
Bortolotti said the last two hours was probably the “most intense” of his career due to the demanding nature of the circuit and the battle with GT veteran Lally.
“I was behind Andy and I made a move into Turn 1 and managed to make it stick,” he said. “I knew I had to try to go for it because with the traffic you can lose ground.
“They can gain five, six seconds on you, then there’s no chance to get back on their tail.
“I was really, really up his bumper and I decided I really had to go for track position.
“It worked, and I think it was the move of the race for us. Before and after that we were saving fuel to keep him behind. It was hard.”
The Italian, who shared driving duties with co-drivers Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers, said winning Sebring is a “big achievement” particularly given the race’s unique challenges.
“It’s a big boost, definitely,” Bortolotti said. “It’s something I was always looking forward to winning a race like this.
“Daytona is Daytona, we know how nice it is and how special, but this is a completely different race.
“It’s a track where, in terms of layout of the track, it’s basically the opposite to Daytona. It’s super tough for the car and the driver and the team, so winning this is a big achievement for us and me personally.
“I hope I don’t wake up in a half an hour, I hope it’s not a dream!”
Sanna: Historic Lamborghini 1-2 Finish an “Unbelievable” Feeling
Lamborghini motorsport boss Giorgio Sanna admitted he was on pins and needles in the closing hour after seeing Bortolotti and Lally battle it out for the class win.
It marked the first-ever 1-2 finish for the Italian manufacturer in WeatherTech Championship competition.
“More or less, I lost ten years in the last one hour!” Sanna told Sportscar365.
“It’s a good result for us, for Grasser, for Magnus of course. I’m very happy for them. They both did a great race and it’s unbelievable.
“To win again, Daytona and Sebring back to back, in the same year, is something we’re working very hard in the right way everywhere.”
Sanna said he was especially proud of the performance from each team’s gentlemen drivers, Ineichen and Magnus team owner/driver John Potter, proving the effectiveness of its new-for-2019 Evo kit.
“As you know, the Evo kit works a lot to improve the driveability of the car and to close the gap between the gentlemen and the Pro drivers,” he said.
“The performance that we have seen today also shows that we are working well.”