2011 champion Perry Bortolotti remains one of the fiercest, most respected competitors in the series
If you're looking for an accurate reading of the pulse of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, there are few better sources than Perry Bortolotti.
Bortolotti (in photo at a previous event) has raced in the International Motor Sports Association-sanctioned series since its inception in 2011, winning the Platinum Cup championship in the inaugural season. The outgoing, genial Bortolotti also has been a straight shooter over the last three years. So when he talks, the paddock listens.
And Bortolotti says the 2014 edition of the series - one of nearly 20 global Porsche 911 GT3 Cup one-make championships - is stronger than ever.
"It's been a big transition from day one to where we are today," Bortolotti said. "It's been a learning curve for everybody. But one of the amazing things we've seen is that we've managed to attract a lot of good, young talent coming up because, after all, it is a development series. The talent that's coming up and has come up through the series is tremendous. That's really exciting.
"People are starting to recognize in Canada these Porsche GT3 Cup cars. Prior to the race series, only the real avid Porsche-philes knew about the full-blown race cars, and nobody knew about the 20-country Carrera Cup series."
That young talent, including Platinum Cup standouts Scott Hargrove, Chris Green and Spencer Pigot, has raised the competition level even higher. But Bortolotti, 56, is keeping pace in his No. 84 Mark Motors Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car with his skill, experience and an aggressive fitness regimen that includes long-distance road cycling.
Bortolotti remains one of the leading contenders for the Platinum Masters (drivers age 45 and over) championship and for overall Platinum Cup podium positions at every round.
The next event in the series is June 21-22 at Calabogie Motorsports Park, Bortolotti's home track. Calabogie is located about 50 miles (80 km) from Bortolotti's home in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, Ontario, where he also is the president of Cee-Jay Micro Ltd., an award-winning electronics company.
Two 45-minute races will take place Sunday, June 22 on the 20-turn, 3.05-mile (5.05 km) circuit at Calabogie, the longest and one of the most challenging tracks in Canada. Round 3 of the season will start at 10:15 a.m., followed by Round 4 at 2:45 p.m. Practice and qualifying take place Saturday.
A healthy spoonful of home cooking at Calabogie is coming just at the right time for Bortolotti. He finished outside the top 10 in both rounds at the season-opening event May 17-18 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, the victim of contact created by aggressive driving by rivals.
"It's paramount that we're nice and clean with two good finishes," Bortolotti said about the next two rounds at Calabogie. "(The aggressive racing at CTMP) was surprising, but it shouldn't be surprising because usually the first race of a series, everyone is all pent up after the winter and all hell-bent on going to the front in a hurry. That kind of stuff happens, and I think everyone calms down and gathers and collects their thoughts at the end of it."
Bortolotti already is putting plenty of thought into his strategy for this weekend with the powerful Mark Motors Racing team, based in Ottawa. He knows management of the Michelin tires on the long, challenging circuit, with its wide technical variety, will be vital.
"It's understanding the tendencies of the track, where you can save tires and where you can use them up," Bortolotti said. "I think that's going to be a big factor at the end of the race. I think last year I was lapping faster than the leaders at the end of the race. Unfortunately I spun earlier in the race, but I got back up to the leaders after spinning. It was all tire management."
Bortolotti has cultivated that keen sense of managing a race and conditions during a racing career that has placed him in an impressive array of vehicles. He started racing on snowmobiles and moved to oval-track stock car racing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He then switched to sports car racing, first in Corvettes and now in Porsches.
Race management was more complicated from the driver's seat during Bortolotti's early years because the cars had more manual systems - such as H-pattern gearboxes with clutches instead of the automatic paddle shifters in today's Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars - that occupied much of the driver's thought processes. Those manual systems increased the chance for error, so the ability to multi-task behind the wheel was crucial.
But the reliability and more automatic systems of the current Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars breed much better competition, Bortolotti said. And there still are plenty of lessons he learned from his early days that translate to today.
"At the end of the day, it's car control, it's understanding the specifics of going fast and staying safe," Bortolotti said. "One thing that all motorsports have in common is the visual aspect of it. That's by far the most important thing in going fast, is a lot of vision as much as car control.
"These cars are so equal and the talent pool is so equal that it's a lot tighter racing."
One of Bortolotti's closest competitors is his Mark Motors Racing teammate, fellow Platinum Masters driver Marco Cirone of Toronto. But don't expect any drama between the two if the race for the podium or the Platinum Masters championship is decided between them.
"At the end of the day, we both do this for fun and entertainment," Bortolotti said. "We'll be doing this together for a long time moving forward. We're fierce competitors, and it's not to say that we won't trade paint in tight racing circumstances, but that's just racing on the track. And that's the end of it. It's over. We love it when we race like that.
"If one of us has a good race, we're both equally as happy for each other and the team. That's one of the reasons we teamed up: We're good friends first and competitors second."