Stéphane Ortelli and Frank Stippler head into today’s Blancpain Endurance Series title-decider as favorites, but 2012 champion Ortelli thinks there is still everything to battle for.
The Monegasque sportscar veteran has been one of the most successful drivers in Blancpain history. He can become the two-time Pro Cup champion and is currently in a great position to add another accolade behind his name.
Finishing second at Spa brought him and Stippler to the lead in the standings, but Ortelli feels that they also had their fair share of bad luck this season.
“With five races in the championship, Spa is very important of course,” Ortelli told Sportscar365.
“Honestly, afterwards we didn’t really think about the championship, because for us what happened at Paul Ricard was such a big drama for the points.”
Ortelli had to retire with a gearbox problem 11 minutes from the end in the six-hour race when his WRT Audi R8 LMS was in P6.
“Some people have been unlucky at Spa, we were unlucky at Paul Ricard,” he said.
The 45-year-old already has six big international titles behind his name, and can count on a wealth of experience in situations like these.
“What is more important for me is that every year, you realize you had a good season or not when you are capable to win the championship at the last race, and that has happened a lot,” he said.
“Except for 2008 and 2009, all the other years since the early ’90s, I’ve been in a position to win the championship.
“That’s something I’m very good at, I know how to fight for a championship.”
Ortelli is known for being an empathetic driver and feels that Spa polesitter Frank Stippler deserves the title even more.
“The title wouldn’t change my life, but I really think Frank deserves it. I would be happier for him than for myself,” he said.
“He deserves it more than I do. He’s been doing so much for this company (Audi Sport) in GT and DTM.
“I like these kind of stories, and I think we can write some very nice pages on Sunday night.”
Looking at the race, Ortelli realizes it won’t be an easy task, especially with the very large grid that showed up for the season finale.
“We have to be clever and also a bit lucky,” he said. “This is the position where we wanted to be when we started the championship, now we will give 100 percent.
“It’s not the best track for the Audi so it’s going to be difficult, like every race of the Blancpain Series. You can chase the others or you can be chased, but we’ll only look ahead.
“There are 55 cars on track and everything can happen, this is why we love this sport so much. We are ready for the war, ready to fight.”
Ortelli is also very much aware of the role that the No. 1 WRT Audi of Laurens Vanthoor, Robin Frijns and Jean-Karl Vernay can play, which also still has a small option on the title.
“We can count on each other, but we can also count on our sister cars,” he said. “Especially car No.1 will be a key point for us, to stay in front and snatch points away.”
The fact that Audi reshuffled the lineups throughout the year means their teammate Stéphane Richelmi is not in contention for the title.
“Stef did a really strong pole position here in GP2 a couple of years ago, in front of a couple of drivers who are now racing in Formula One, and he already competed here before in GT3,” he said.
“He reminds me a lot of Laurens Vanthoor or Nico Müller. The last four or five years I’ve been helping a lot of young guys coming from formula cars.
“I think I’m quite good to do it because I know how it is. Back in the days, old guys like Thierry Boutsen, Hans Stück, Yannick Dalmas, they were helping me quite a lot and I think life is about repeating what you had in your young years.”