For Grasser Racing, based in Knittelfeld, and Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti, who grew up in Vienna and is also at home there, the 13th and 14th rounds of the DTM at the Red Bull Ring are a home game this weekend.
After the disappointing races at the Nürburgring (two retirements) and Spa-Francorchamps (eighth and tenth respectively), the fourth-placed driver wants to finish on the podium again and thus preserve his small chance in the fight for the title.
The Formula 2 champion (2011), who has already tested for three F1 teams, comes to Spielberg with 94 points. Ahead of the double winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona are Sheldon van der Linde (BMW, 130), Lucas Auer (Mercedes, 98) and René Rast (Audi, 96).
In an interview with LAOLA1 Italian-born Bortolotti takes stock of his DTM season so far and why the home race at the Red Bull Ring could turn things around in the final spurt of the 2022 DTM season.
LAOLA1: How do you see the season so far with ups and downs?
Mirko Bortolotti: All in all, it’s been a very positive season so far. As a team and as a brand, we didn’t have any DTM experience like the other “big powers”. We’re still rookies. Of course there are a lot of positives like our consistency in the first half. But there were also mistakes that we would have liked to have avoided, but they are part of the game.
LAOLA1: How do you rate the unsuccessful Nürburgring weekend by far?
Bortolotti: Of course it wasn’t good for us. We fought for victory in the first race, which ended up costing us 19 points. In the second I did everything you have to do, but there was contact, which cost me more points. Well, I have to say “mea culpa” for the first collision with Felipe Fraga, for the second I was already level with Kelvin van der Linde and had a right to my place, Kelvin didn’t have to give in. I would say that in the first half of the season we scored a lot of unexpected points through outstanding performances, which we couldn’t have planned for. Like the 15 points in Imola after a penalty transfer for incorrect tire marking. From 16th to third place, that was good, one of my best races ever. Or the ten points lost in Portimao due to a technical defect. We were lucky and unlucky. It would be wrong to just point the finger at us because of the Nürburgring. We could do better, but we can still be satisfied.
LAOLA1: Is the home race in Spielberg more pressure and stress or more motivation?
Bortolotti: We’re really looking forward to the home race for the Grasser team, which is just around the corner. The motivation is very high. I see it pragmatically, it doesn’t matter where you start, the same points can be scored everywhere. We just have to focus on work. The home field advantage is lower in motorsport than in football.
LAOLA1: What are your chances at the Red Bull Ring?
Bortolotti: In the past, our performances here have been very good. We managed our first GT Masters win in the Huracan in 2015, last year I took pole and finished second. I also have good memories of the Ring from my single-seater days. The DTM has its own rules, we have the second heaviest car at the weekend and the straights are not our strength either. So we’re not favorites on paper, but we believe we have a chance and we’ll fight.
“If we call up our potential, we can beat anyone”
“I’m concentrating on myself and our teamwork. If we reach our potential, we can beat anyone. That’s my goal.”
LAOLA1: Grasser is new to the series and has four cars. Is that an advantage in data synchronization or too much effort that can lead to getting bogged down?
Bortolotti: I think this has worked quite well so far. It has advantages because we can learn more with less training time. Rolf (Ineichen) and Clemens (Schmid) are experienced Lambo drivers, Alessio (Deledda) has to get used to GT racing, but is developing well. I see us in a good position and four cars is therefore an advantage.
LAOLA1: What do you expect from the rest of the season? Who is favorite?
Bortolotti: I focus on myself and our teamwork. If we can reach our potential, we can beat anyone. That is my goal.
LAOLA1: Is it already certain that Grasser will also drive DTM in 2023?
Bortolotti: This is not fixed yet. Personally, I count on everything and nothing at all….
“I am 100 percent involved in the LMDh project”
LAOLA1: To what extent are you involved in the development of the new long-distance prototype at Lamborghini?
Bortolotti: 100 percent. I can’t say more yet. The car isn’t finished yet. I’m looking forward to the physical work with the car.
LAOLA1: When will it be ready for first tests?
Bortolotti: They won’t go out this year. It should be ready at the beginning of 2023. The racing debut will be in 2024.
LAOLA1: In IMSA and WEC?
Bortolotti: The current goal is to compete in both major series.
LAOLA1: How can one imagine your cooperation? Do you have to come to Sant’Agata all the time or can you do it online from home?
Bortolotti: My racing season is still running and is the main focus. In addition to the development of the LMDh, we also have to deal with the construction of the new GT3 car, which is already being developed non-stop. I was also heavily involved in that. I’ll be there both on site and online.
LAOLA1: You had a strong single-seater career and were able to complete Formula 1 tests with Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Williams. What was the sticking point that it didn’t work out with Formula 1?
Bortolotti: I wouldn’t say anything went wrong, on the contrary, it went damn well. Because otherwise I wouldn’t be a Lamborghini works driver and couldn’t drive at this level in GT racing. We have built a lot. The experiences from it made me who I am now. A career in Formula 1 is one thing, a career as such is another. The term “pro” is used lightly, but being a pro means something. I’m happy with what I have now.