Mortara aims to make it three times lucky
Swiss-born Italian ace Edoardo Mortara has conquered the Macau Grand Prix not once, but twice. However, he has another mountain to climb when he competes in a completely different race at next month's 58th meeting at the famous Guia circuit.
The 24-year-old became part of Macau folklore last year when he became the first man to win the Formula Three race for two years in succession, completing a superb victory in his Volkswagen-Dallara.
Now, Mortara will return to Macau - not in open-wheel racing, but in touring cars in the fourth running of the Macau GT Cup, where he will make his debut.
Returning to the scene of his back-to-back victories, the amiable Italian will be behind the wheels of an Audi and unsure how he will fare against arguably the strongest field assembled for the November 20 race. But Mortara is used to challenges.
While most drivers who have won in Macau jump at the chance of making a career as a Formula One driver, Mortara has decided to take a chance by competing in touring cars. 'The Volkswagen Group has always been supportive of my career. After my F3 programme with Volkswagen, I had the chance to stay with Volkswagen and step up in DTM [Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters]. So it was a logical step to join Audi. And now I can say it was the right choice. I'm really happy to race in DTM. It's a high-profile series that is managed absolutely professionally. It's a dream for many drivers to get this chance,' said Mortara.
While the Italian spent this season in DTM, finishing ninth overall in his first season - he was awarded Best Rookie in the series - and stood on the podium twice, once at Brands Hatch and once at Oschersleben, Germany, his season could have been better. 'I made too many mistakes in the last two races at Valencia and Hockenheim, so I harbour some mixed feelings regarding the end of the season. I want to improve if I will be given the chance to race again in DTM next year,' he explained.
Mortara will be competing in the GT Cup in Macau with no experience in a GT car. This will present another challenge to him. 'To be honest, I can't say much about the differences [between DTM and GT] as I have never raced in a GT car in my career. We will see how it goes when I drive the Audi R8 LMS.
'I'm looking forward to driving this fantastic GT3 car. This same make has scored 112 wins and 12 titles [in other races around the world]. But of course, a GT car is physically different to a single-seater regarding weight, braking points, cornering speeds and other aspects,' he said.
Mortara will get some much-needed practice in his GT3 car when he competes in next month's Intercontinental Le Mans Cup - a six-hour endurance race in Zhuhai - a week before Macau. The timing couldn't be better. It will be a chance for him to test the car and put in some good practice before Macau. He will compete against seasoned Macau veterans such as Britain's Danny Watts (McLaren MP4-12C GT3) and recently crowned Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Keita Sawa of Japan (SPS Motorsport Lamborghini LP-560 GT3).
'I don't think I have an advantage [in Macau]. Of course, I have raced and won there in the past. But I think Keita [two-time Macau GT Cup champion] and also Watts have been there more times than I have. I'm sure they know the track better than me. So I expect very tough competition,' he said.
'Zhuhai will be perfect practice for me just one week before Macau. I will share the car with [Hong Kong's] Darryl O'Young and Alexandre Imperatori [of Switzerland]. I am looking forward to this endurance race.'
The Zhuhai race will give Mortara a chance to rub shoulders with two-time former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen, who will also be competing in as a guest driver.
'When I was younger, Mika Hakkinen was a great name at that time and he still is a well-known racing driver. And it will be great to compete against him. I relish this chance to compete against him.'
Mortara will also be driving in Macau with a bit of trepidation and sadness. He, like many drivers, has been touched by the recent deaths of [IndyCar racer] Dan Wheldon and [motorcycling ace] Marco Simoncelli.
'Fatalities are always very shocking. Fortunately, they occur much less often these days when compared to the long history of motorsport. But still, it is very tragic. I didn't know Wheldon personally, but I have met Simoncelli in the past.'