GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup points leader Mirko Bortolotti has been ruled out of this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa due to illness.
Audi confirmed on Wednesday that its factory driver Bortolotti, who was due to share the No. 31 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo with Kelvin van der Linde and Dries Vanthoor, has come down with a “flu-like infection” and is unable to take his place in the lineup.
WRT has drafted in DTM competitor Ferdinand Habsburg to complete its driving crew.
An Audi spokesperson confirmed to Sportscar365 that Bortolotti and the rest of the manufacturer’s 24H Spa drivers have all recently tested negative for coronavirus.
A statement from WRT added that Bortolotti has undergone “several tests” that came back negative but is “not fit to race”.
Spa marks the second time this year that one of Audi’s factory drivers has been ruled out of a major 24-hour event due to illness.
A flu-induced Robin Frijns pulled out of the Nürburging 24 on the eve of last month’s race leaving Bortolotti, Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock to compete as a trio.
Bortolotti’s place in the No. 31 Audi at Spa will be taken up by Christopher Mies, who moves across from WRT’s No. 30 machine.
The seat formerly occupied by Mies in the No. 30 is now Habsburg’s, while the Austrian driver is due to share the wheel with Dennis Marschall and Matthieu Vaxiviere.
Marschall and Vaxiviere were only brought into Audi’s Spa lineup this week after DTM top-three Rene Rast, Nico Mueller and Frijns – who had been allocated in three of the manufacturer’s factory-supported cars – withdrew to focus on their upcoming season finale.
This also led to Dorian Boccolacci being called up to share the Audi Sport Team Sainteloc car with Haase and Winkelhock.
Audi Sport Team Attempto’s lineup of Mattia Drudi, Frederic Vervisch and Patric Niederhauser remains unchanged.
Bortolotti’s late substitute Habsburg is set for his first GT appearance with the team that he drives for in the DTM.
The 23-year-old was due to contest the 24 Hours of Spa last year in an R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 but didn’t get to turn a lap in the race.
“What an incredible opportunity to drive for Audi Sport at a huge global event,” said Habsburg.
“Then, I had to stop and consider it – of course, DTM is my number one priority and I’m edging closer to the race win with each round.
“Some of the DTM championship-contenders opted out of Spa, and that makes total sense for them, but I’m in a different championship position and stage in my career.”
“To represent Audi Sport, one of the greatest sporting operations in the world, is something I am going to grab with both hands. I’m honored to have been asked and proud that I can support WRT in their home race.”
Bortolotti’s absence this weekend is likely to have a significant impact on his GTWC Europe Endurance Cup title hopes.
The 2017 Endurance Cup champion won this season’s 3 Hours of Imola opener with van der Linde and Matthieu Vaxiviere on his first appearance for Audi in the series.
A fourth-place finish in last month’s 6 Hours of the Nürburgring with Rolf Ineichen consolidated Bortolotti and van der Linde’s title lead heading into the 24 Hours of Spa.