Remember the Plaid Porsche?
If you follow racing closely then you likely know it well. But if you’ve lost touch with the sport through the pandemic, a refresher may help jog your memory.
The Plaid Porsche is the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, a Canadian entry in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the top sports car racing series on the continent. This program is so homegrown that the vast majority of the crew is Canadian, including 33-year-old team manager Steve Bortolotti, who got the job by rising through the ranks within the Pfaff Porsche dealership in Vaughan, Ont., where he started his career a decade ago as an inventory coordinator.
Pfaff’s race shop is based in Canada, too. When the team relocated into a larger 25,000-square-foot space earlier this year, it chose to stay in Vaughan, a roughly 15-minute drive from the Pfaff Porsche dealership.
When the team last raced in Canada in 2019, it had just made the move into IMSA competition and was still finding its footing. Today, the Plaid Porsche team has a 2021 class championship and a dramatic GTD Pro class win at the 2022 24 Hours of Daytona under its belt, among a longer list of individual victories.
Next up on Bortolotti’s bucket list? A win at the team’s home track, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. For the first time in three years, he and the team will have a chance to check that box when IMSA returns to CTMP over the upcoming Canada Day long weekend.
Bortolotti is being realistic about the team’s prospects, but he says the entire crew is hungry to chase victory in front of their hometown crowd.
“Historically, [CTMP is] not really a great Porsche track,” Bortolotti told Wheels.ca. “With high speed, long duration corners, being a rear engine car, it's not really where the Porsche shines. … But it doesn't mean you can't be competitive. There's so much more to a race with strategy and everything else.
“It's our home track. We know it quite well. You're not going to find many teams that know it as well as we do and how the surface changes and how the weather reacts. So, maybe it's not historically, statistically, the best Porsche track, but I feel like we're still going in as having a good chance to win because we're the hometown team.”
Like many of the cars that will lap CTMP next weekend, the Porsche 911 GT3 R is a spectacular machine. Based on the 911 GT3 RS road car, the track-dedicated R version builds onto it with a composite body structure, a double-wishbone front suspension with KW dampers and AP Racing brakes, and additional downforce with an enlarged wing and diffuser. With roughly 550 horsepower to play with, Bortolotti says the team’s testing has them estimating they’ll hit top speeds of 280 kilometres per hour on CTMP’s Mario Andretti Straightaway.
We’re not saying Bortolotti is race crazy, but we submit this for consideration: he got married a few weeks ago, and he somehow convinced his bride to incorporate a visit into the 24 Hours of Le Mans into his honeymoon. (He wasn’t working, he insists. They went for fun and had a great time.)
Now, he says getting back into the grind in front of family and friends, Pfaff employees, and Plaid Porsche fans is going to require him and the team to stay focused.
“It's not really a choice of whether I am or not—I feel like we have to be ready,” Bortolotti said. “We all want this. Let's not play pretend that it’s not a big deal. … How do we do it? Let's just be perfect. Easy, right? Just don't screw up. And then at least you give yourself a shot.
“I think going into CTMP, that's got to be our mindset. You can't treat it like any other race because that's cliché, and it's not any other race. It's our home race. But just going in with the same mindset of, hey, let's just do our job, the results will come.”
The Plaid Porsche is just one group among a sizeable Canadian contingent taking part in IMSA’s return to CTMP this Canada Day long weekend for the Chevrolet Grand Prix. Canadians Robert Wickens and Mark Wilkins will race together for the first time at home in Saturday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race, fresh off their first-ever joint victory at Watkins Glen International last weekend. Plus, Bob and Connor Attrell of Brampton, Ont., will make their IMSA-level debut in a Michelin Pilot Challenge entry backed by Hyundai Canada, among others. The track is expecting upwards of 100,000 spectators to pass through the gates over three days in its largest event to permit spectators since 2019. Children 16 and under are free with a paying adult, and tickets can be purchased in advance until June 29 at canadiantiremotorsportpark.com, or at the gate throughout the weekend.