Mirko Bortolotti feels as though he’s “returning home” upon his move back into Lamborghini’s factory driver lineup after a single season with Audi.
Bortolotti had been an official Squadra Corse driver for five years when he joined Audi for 2020, but was announced as a Lamborghini driver again ahead of this year’s campaign.
The Italian told Sportscar365 that he’s relishing the opportunity to return to the brand with which he claimed several major accolades including the 2017 GT World Challenge Europe (then Blancpain GT) Endurance Cup and overall titles.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to being back at Lamborghini,” said Bortolotti, who also took class wins at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Rolex 24 at Daytona during his initial period driving the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and its Evo variant.
“We all know my history with the brand, and the fact that once the Huracan GT3 project started, I was there and a part of that. It feels like returning home, that’s for sure.
“But it’s clearly not something that was planned 12 months ago. Nobody expected 2020 to be the way it was. Obviously, it has changed a lot of plans in the motorsport world too.
“At the end of the day, for me, it’s really positive and I’m really happy.
“I will try my best to help Lamborghini with the next step forward. There’s always things we can learn and improve, and we are both getting better with every season we do.
“I’m really looking forward to this new role that I will be able to take. On-track, not much will change. The goal will be as I did in the past, to be as quick as possible and try to develop the car where I can.”
Bortolotti explained that he had to make a decision between re-signing with Audi, which had recruited him on a one-year deal for 2020, or moving back to Lamborghini.
During his time with Audi, Bortolotti represented the brand in various championships and achieved podiums in the Nürburgring 24, the Daytona 24 and the Kyalami 9 Hour.
“Luckily I had an offer from Audi to continue,” he said. “They wanted me to continue. I found myself in a position to be able to take a decision for myself.
“On the one hand, it’s nice. But on the other hand, it’s difficult because you have to think a lot and it takes a lot of energy. You have to project yourself into the future which is a bit surreal because I prefer to live for the day and the next race.
“It was a good situation for me, because we are in really difficult times right now. You cannot take anything for granted. So being in a position to take a decision was something pretty positive.”
Bortolotti felt that his previous affinity made Lamborghini a clear choice, although making the ultimate decision wasn’t straightforward.
“It’s never an easy decision,” he said. “It was a big step for me in 2019 to accept the offer from the Audi camp.
“That was a big decision, having been with a brand for six years and basically starting from zero, getting out of the comfort zone.
“But I know what I have with Lamborghini. I know everyone there and we know each other very well. We built up something from the bottom, and I know what I’m going to find and what the targets will be.
“On that hand, it was easy to decide, but on the other it wasn’t because with Audi I found a really professional environment where I felt really comfortable.
“It was a great experience with one of the most experienced manufacturers in motorsport.”
Short Spell with Audi “Really Positive”
Bortolotti said that he will have fond memories of his brief involvement with Audi, which saw him compete in IMSA, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup, ADAC GT Masters, the NLS and the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.
The Italian found his main highlights came at the Nürburgring Nordschleife with the Car Collection team, where he scored two podiums from three dry NLS races before finishing runner-up in his first N24 that was impacted by heavy rain.
However, he also faced some challenging moments, including being forced to miss a handful of GT Masters rounds and his drive with Team WRT at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
“It was a big personal challenge, coming into a completely new environment, team and people, working with drivers that were for a long time the benchmark for that brand,” he said.
“At the end of the day, that was really positive for me in the short amount of time that we had at our disposal. I’m proud of what we achieved.
“The fact that I had to miss Spa due to illness was the biggest shame because we were leading the [Endurance] championship at that stage.
“When you have to miss a race that has more than once championship connected to it, you compromise your whole season in terms of points standings.
“But that doesn’t mean it was a bad season. For me, it was a really good season.”
Bortolotti returns to Lamborghini this month in the Hankook 24H Dubai, driving for the GRT Grasser Racing Team with which he captured many of his earlier GT3 awards.
“It’s really important,” he said. “I’ve had absolutely no testing since my last race with Audi at Kyalami. Dubai will be a really important race for the rest of the season.
“I will try to go for the maximum result, but it will [also] be a preparation race to get back into the Lamborghini which has some differences to the Audi on driveability. All the buttons are the same, and the seat positions are similar, so you can jump in either car.
“The main difference for me was always the way you have to brake in the two cars. But I don’t believe I will need a lot of time to get back in the Lambo.
“The biggest step was to learn the Audi after years in the Lambo. So coming back to the Lamborghini should be more natural, having driven it for such a long period of time.”