Stephane Ortelli will give the Lexus RC F GT3 its first competitive outing on British soil this weekend, but as a veteran of global GT racing the Monegasque driver is no stranger to the Brands Hatch circuit.
Ortelli has an extensive history at the Kent venue, stretching back to his early days competing in the BPR Global GT Series. He got his GT racing break in the category during the 1995 season and, a little over a year later, secured a memorable result on British soil.
“My first win outside France was at Brands Hatch in 1996," explained Ortelli. “I won with Bob Wollek and Franz Konrad, and it was also a very important victory for Bob because he had won that race with Porsche 10 years earlier, in 1986.
“So it was a 10-year anniversary for him – we’re talking about a legend of endurance racing – and I was part of it.”
The trio drove a Porsche 911 to victory in the GT2 class that day, a result that helped to propel Ortelli towards international success.
“My speed was crazy,” recalled Ortelli, who will share the #114 entry with Norbert Siedler this weekend. “Bob said to me: ’Steph, if you are able to consistently go as fast as this without making mistakes, we’re going to win the race!”
They did exactly that, giving Ortelli a memorable first and Wollek an anniversary win to savour. But the Monegasque driver added that his connection with Britain runs deeper still.
“I used to live in England for a few years and my first podium was at Silverstone in 1996,” he said. “I was with Parr Motorsport [in the BPR Global GT Series] and we finished third with Robert Nearn and Andy Pilgrim. And then, later in the year, we won at Brands Hatch."
Speaking about the Emil Frey squad’s first British outing with the Lexus, Ortelli struck a cautiously optimistic tone.
“We come here with a lot of positivity, but we know who we’re competing against. We’re up against teams who race every weekend and have been successful at Brands Hatch year after year.
“So we are very humble. We have the desire and we have the car, but we have to respect our competitors.”