Stéphane Ortelli undoubtedly has one of the best track records in GT racing, with the Monegasque driver set to take on a new challenge this year with Emil Frey Racing following six-year stint with WRT and Audi. (En Français)
Ortelli will share the wheel of the blue G3-homologated Jaguar with Lorenz Frey and Albert Costa in the Blancapin GT Series Endurance Cup Pro Cup.
Following a maiden Pro-Am class win at the Nürburgring finale last year, switching to Pro Cup is another step up for the small Swiss team.
Endurance-Info caught up with Ortelli, a former Le Mans and Spa 24 winner, to discuss the new chapter in his GT racing career.
To see you end up at Emil Frey Racing is still one of the surprises of the off-season…
“I was immediately won over by the team. From the outside, Emil Frey Racing may seem a small team, which is not completely wrong.
“They love their job and do it very well. For me, everything is new: the challenge, the team, the car, teammates, even the spirit in general.
“I found the same feeling as when I arrived at Porsche for Le Mans or Audi in GT3. Emil Frey Racing is about to write a part of history and it’s a great satisfaction for me to be part of that.
“My experience should help them to be successful. This was the main reason why I joined them.”
This isn’t only a sporting challenge, but also a human challenge…
“The whole team has talent and I’m aware of the challenge. I immediately liked the human side of things.
“I have known this feeling for a long time at Freisinger Motorsport and then with WRT for six years. You quickly feel part of the team.”
How did you get in touch with Emil Frey Racing?
“I have close ties with Nico Müller. When he knew I was available for a program, he gave my name to Lorenz Frey. Marcel Fässler was also part of it.
“I have known both guys very well for years now. They made the link with Emil Frey Racing. At 25 years old, Lorenz Frey has a great potential and there’s still more to come.
“I passed on all my knowledge to Nico Müller for two years and helped a lot of drivers to get started in GT racing, like Romain (Dumas), Marc (Lieb), Nico (Lapierre), Gianmaria (Bruni) or Laurens (Vanthoor).
“Having Albert Costa with us is a guarantee of quality. For now he has only built up a reputation in open wheel racing, but I have no doubts that he will quickly make a name for himself in GT racing.”
How do you rate the potential of the Jaguar?
“The car is just waiting to be developed. The move to the Pro-Cup means that the level needs to be raised even more to do well.
“The team’s work has already borne fruit. Never has there been such a strong competition in the Blancpain Endurance Cup in the Pro class.
“The goal is to win around a dozen positions compared to last season, but you have to remain realistic when you look at the teams we’re competing against.
“The Emil Frey Jaguar is the only car designed and developed by a private team. I will try to do my part to further expand the project.
“I had other opportunities for 2016 and without hesitation I chose for Emil Frey Racing. What would have made me win a couple more races in my career?”
So it is important not to look at this as a step back?
“Absolutely not! You have to follow your heart. It would be step back if I didn’t help to develop a car or train young drivers.
“I was able to do this with WRT and I was very happy with that. I still have it in me, like Bob (Wollek) helped me out when I started my career.
“I still have good speed in me and Lorenz can still make further progress and Albert is in the same situation as Nico and Laurens a couple of years ago.
“One can imagine other programs in the future with Emil Frey Racing. I’m waiting for the season to start. It has given me a new racing philosophy. ”
Will the addition of a second Jaguar mark another step up?
“The second chassis is being assembled to be entered in Pro-Am. The team is evolving and constantly growing.
“It’s a story like David against Goliath. I read this in the team’s press release and it made me smile.
“I experienced the same situation at the 24 Hours of Spa back in 2003, where we beat the big GT1s with the small Freisinger Porsche.
“I remain passionate about the sport and endurance. The team might be small, but it is a big family. “