Steve Bortolotti On Pfaff Motorsports New Challenge : IMSA GTD PRO
2021 IMSA SPORTSCAR WEATHERTECH GTD CHAMPIONS PFAFF MOTORSPORTS ARE ABOUT TO EMBARK ON A NEW CHALLENGE WITH ENTERING THE GTD PRO CLASS
Pfaff Motorsports announced last Fall they were to move up to the new GTD PRO class that was to replace GTLM. Now, the teams competing in GTLM which were mostly factory backed also made the switch to GTD Pro. The likes of the Corvette Team and BMW Team RLL(Rahal Letterman Lanigan) have confirmed their presence for the full season.
For the Rolex 24 at Daytona, there will be 13 cars and eight manufacturers present. Other than Pfaff Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R, Corvette Racing has two entries with its Corvette C8.R GT3, BMW Team RLL has two new BMW M4 GT3, WeatherTech Racing has two Porsche 911 GT3 R and they also are to run a Mercedes AMG GT3 under Proton USA.
Then we have Vasser Sullivan with one Lexus RC F GT3, Heart of Racing has one Aston Martin Vantage GT3, KCMG with one Porsche 911GT3 R, TR3 Racing with one Lamborghini Huracàn GT3 and finally Risi Competizione with the Red Ferrari 488 GT3 and its annual rendez-vous at the Rolex 24.
The GTD PRO class also brings along top names and factory drivers in GT Racing. Anthony Garcia, Jordan Taylor, Patrick Pilet, Laurence Vanthoor, Ben Barnicot, Ross Gunn, Alex Riberas, Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Mirko Bortolotti to name a few.
Pfaff Motorsports has forged a strong relationship with Porsche over the years and in stepping up to GTD PRO their driver line-up is one of the strongest pairing in class. Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet, as we know, will be driving the plaid Porsche in 2022 and Felipe Nasr will join them for the Rolex 24.
Canadian Racers News reached out to Pfaff Motorsports’ team manager Steve Bortolotti to speak about this new venture.
Canadian Racers News (CRN) : How has the short off-season been for the Pfaff Motorsports Plaid team?
Steve Bortolotti (SB) : There really was no off-season for us since as soon as the car came back(from Petit Le Mans in early November, NDLR), Corey took the car all apart and got his list together of what parts we needed to order for reconditioning through the season and put the car back together so it looked about right and then sent it for a couple of days at the dealership. There was actually no engine or transmission as they were sent to be reconditioned.
We were ready for the workload because we knew when the schedule was moved last April that there would be no off-season at all. All the credits to Porsche, they were ready to support their customers and we had everything back before Christmas. We’ve never really had too many disruptions but electronically the GTD PRO class the fuell flow sensors and some of the sensors on the refuelling rig and on the car are different so those were a bit delayed to get to us.
CRN : Were there any differences to go from GTD to GTD PRO as you were preparing the car?
SB : Not really. Thankfully for us, IMSA has done a really good job in keeping the sporting regulations the same between the two classes more or less. Minor things like the headlights are a different color(from yellow to clear, NDLR). The main difference is with the fuel flow sensor at the refuelling rig is different and at that point we just had to obtain the part and assemble it and then IMSA is going to do the rest from there as it is sealed.
From our side the prep was more or less like any other 24 hour race, the fourth time doing it with this car so we have a pretty good handle on it. We want to make sure this time around we have a solid finish.
CRN : You were in a hiring process since you confirmed, mid-December, Pfaff Motorsports 2022 season. Have you filled all of the opportunities?
SB : Yes, we have. It was great. Certainly being one of two Canadian teams(the other being AWA Racing in LMP3, NDLR) running in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, we have a lot of passionate Canadians who inspire to make a career in motorsport. We certainly have people applying all the time and frankly a lot of qualified people that we get access to because we are Canadian and they can still live and work in Canada.
CRN : Pfaff Motorsports’ relationship with Porsche has certainly grown over the last seasons. Winning the GTD Championship in 2021, did it bring it to the next level?
SB : It certainly made the relationship better. Having the driver line-up in the car that we have; three drivers that Porsche really wanted to put together so they have that faith in us. We certainly want to keep the relationship growing and flourishing and hopefully become some sort of technical partner or have some ability to serve them in a way that is financially viable for our program and them as well.
CRN : You are about to compete with some well established race teams like Corvette Racing and BMW Team RLL, How are you approaching this first season in GTD PRO?
SB : Honestly, I believe that (GTD Teams, NDLR)Paul Miller Racing, Wright Motorsports, Turner Motorsports or Heart of Racing just because they don’t have the factory affiliation they’re exceptional operators in their teams. RLL or Pratt and Miller(Corvette Racing, NDLR) are very accomplished and they deserved everyone’s respect and admiration but I certainly don’t believe the Paul Miller Racing, Wright Motorsports, Turner Motorsports or Heart of Racing are any less then them.
I think where we will find the biggest difference is in the two car teams where they have two fully pro cars where they can split the strategy. They can take a risk with one car knowing they have a <second bullet in the gun>, so that’s where I think we are to see the biggest difference. That’s something we’ll have to get use to. I think the sport is going to change though, to be honest. I don’t see these multi car factory teams being the future of the sport. I think one GTD and one GTD PRO car is going to be the economic viable future for the sport so teams will have to wrap their head around one Pro/Am car and one Pro car.
CRN : With Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet, Pfaff Motorsports has one of the strongest pairing in the class. Add to this Felipe Nasr who will be tagging along at the Rolex 24. It says a lot about the ambitions from the team and Porsche. What do you feel they will bring to the team?
SB : The two Matt are certainly a known quantity together. They have a ton of experience of racing GT3 Spec Porsche all around the world. They are typically paired together so that experience of them working together is something we are really looking forward to have in our program.
With Felipe, it has certainly been nice to get to know him virtually over the phone and video calls. He his an amazing talent. He’s been in Formula One at the highest level of professional motorsport. We know that our time with him will be short but we certainly want to make a good impression on him because he has a lot of influence with Porsche and will for many years.
He has no GT racing experience but he is a world class talent so it won’t be too hard for him to get up to speed.
CRN : As a team manager, how are you approaching this weekend’s Roar before the Rolex 24 with the practice session, qualifying and qualifying race?
SB : We are certainly approaching it with our eyes open. We have a test plan; we will work our test plan. We are not going to the Roar to be P1 every session or qualify on pole, it is not something we are worrying about, to be honest. We are here trying to get Felipe the seat time in a new car for him that he would need. We have worked with Matt Campbell before but Mathieu Jaminet is new so just working through scenarios in practice that could come up in the race and make sure the team is ready to do anything. With 30-35 GT cars on the grid, there is bound to be some contact and that sort of things, so making sure the team is prepared to change bumpers, splitter and brake changes; making sure we’re as well oiled as we can possibly be leading to such a big race because we have yet to have a perfect 24 hour race yet.
CRN : As you mentioned the team has yet to have experienced a perfect race. There were some high moments and some not so high moments throughout the team’s quests for that Rolex 24 at Daytona victory, is there a game plan already in place for this one?
SB : We are just approaching it as race 11 for our team. We want to continue on what we built in 2021. I’ve been preaching within the team that this is not a new season; the off-season was so short. It is something that we just need to be prepared, to go out there and be as great as we can. We had an amazing last 5 races last year, sure the drivers are different but everyone over the wall, calling strategy and engineering wise, it is all the same people. That continuity is something we have lacked year over year. I’m excited to finally go into a season with the same people I’ve had in the past.
The team will make their way to Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday and the on-track activities for the Roar before the Rolex 24 will start on Friday. IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Teams will have three daytime practice sessions and one two hour nighttime session throughout the weekend. There will be qualifying on Saturday and a qualifying race on Sunday at 2:05pm. The Sunday race will be broadcasted on IMSA TV.
Roar Schedule here.
Images courtesy Pfaff Motorsports/Laurance Yap