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Bortolotti “Never Expected” Podium After Penalty Setback

Mirko Bortolotti says tire strategy was key to late-race charge to third…

Photo: DTM

Mirko Bortolotti said his charge from 16th to a podium finish during Saturday’s DTM race at Imola came as a surprise after the Lamborghini driver was left to start far down the pack after incurring a grid penalty following qualifying.

The Italian secured his third DTM podium finish in five races on Saturday when a charging drive in his No. 63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo saw him make his way to an unlikely third place behind Rene Rast and Nico Mueller.

It came after Bortolotti was demoted to 16th place on the grid thanks to a ten-place penalty prompted by what the team described as a ‘mix-up of the barcodes on his tire sets’ during free practice 2 on Friday.

The team was apparently already aware of the incoming penalty, which is why Bortolotti only completed a single run during morning qualifying, allowing the team to save a set of tires to use in the race.

This enabled Bortolotti to go on a charge after stopping late on lap 22, passing Marco Wittmann, Clemens Schmid and Kelvin van der Linde in quick succession before overtaking Thomas Preining to secure third place.

“I’m quite happy with my race,” said Bortolotti.

“We never expected to be able to fight for a podium today, honestly. Before the race we were even discussing at some stage what we should do and if we should save the tires for tomorrow.

“Because if we don’t have a chance to score points, why should we stay out?

“But in the end, we had a plan and the plan was to stay out long on the only set that we used in qualifying due to the penalty that we got.

“So we used only one set for a long time, so it was crucial to manage the tires at the beginning because I knew I had to go really long and I still needed the performance in the tires when everybody pitted in order to keep the pace up.

“Hoping for anything else happening, maybe some fighting in the pack and everybody pitting together so I have a free track in order to gain some stops.

“And then the race really went towards us, we had a great pitstop and I knew we had a brand new set for the second stint. We used that for the last 20 minutes and that made a big difference.”

Bortolotti credited the team’s strategy call to save the set of tires for his second stint as crucial to his race, as it was the key factor that allowed him to go on his late-race charge.

“I think when you’re on a new set of tires and you fight against guys that are on tires that are eighteen or twenty laps old, it’s different,”  the Italian noted.

“The first stint I had no chance to overtake, I did a full stint behind the Ferraris.

“I think we gained everything with the strategy in the end, because we made the call to have this set of tires. In these temperatures on this track, it made a huge difference.”

One of the drivers passed by Bortolotti on his way to third was teammate Clemens Schmid, who himself was having a strong race from fourth on the grid to secure his first DTM points finish of his career.

Bortolotti indicated that team orders were not at play when he came to overtake his teammate, but that instead Schmid himself opted to not put up too much of a fight against his faster squadmate.

“I think the way I closed the gap, it was quite clear that I was faster than him in that moment.

“Also Clemens is a clever guy and he wants to bring his own points home without fighting and maybe crashing two team cars.

“If we would have had a big fight, first it would have been a bad outcome for both and second there’s a 99 percent chance I would have passed him anyway.

“So I think we were both clever there and it was the maximum for him to also not fight too much.”

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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