Words by Andrew Miterko
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus came widespread cancellation and postponement of automotive events and gatherings throughout the world, along with the recommendation to keep distance between one another. It’s a challenging time for many indeed, and staying in touch with one another is paramount to maintaining one’s sanity. Luckily, technology allows the opportunity to connect individuals throughout the world in an instant. Social media is a particularly useful outlet for, as you may have guessed, staying social.
About three weeks ago, Cam invited longtime friend and colleague Ray Shaffer from Porsche Classic for a virtual get together via Instagram live to talk all things Porsche over a fresh cup of coffee while giving friends and followers the chance to listen in and interact. It was dubbed “Fresh Brewed and Air Cooled”, with Cam broadcasting from the Road Scholars showroom and Ray in his home office. The first episode of the livestream was well received, leading to a second and third episode. In the second episode, the topic of the GT1 era in motorsport came up, with Ray sharing a few photos and his scale models of the Le Mans winning 911 GT1-98. It wasn’t long before Stéphane Ortelli chimed in, and accepted an invitation to join the two in an interview.
In a racing career spanning more than 25 years, Stéphane’s passion and talent for racing has led to a long list of accomplishments. He has been successfully racing GT and Prototype cars since 1996, and has participated in 58 Porsche Supercup races, 29 of those resulting in a podium finish- more than any other driver in the series. At age 28, he earned the prestigious title of being one of 135 Le Mans winning drivers by winning the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans with Allan McNish and Laurent Aïello behind the wheel of the #26 GT1-98. He’s claimed victories at the 24 Hours of Spa in the GT2 class three years in a row between 2002 and 2004, along with podium finishes at the 24 hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in the World GT2 Championship- all while piloting a Porsche. To this day, Stéphane is still highly involved in the world of motorsports as a Works/Test driver with 12 manufacturers and works as a coach to fellow racers.
1998 proved to be a noteworthy year for the team at Porsche- It was the company’s 50th anniversary, and also the year of Ferry Porsche’s passing. It was the first time a Porsche race car would do away with the steel chassis in favor of a carbon tub incorporated in the GT1-98. Despite being strapped for funds, Porsche allocated a significant amount of resources to fund development of an all-new GT1 race car engineered by Norbert Singer, and designed by Tony Hatter under the direction of Harm Lagaay. The 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans was win number sixteen for Norbert Singer, and would ultimately be the last time a Road Car would take the win at Le Mans. Since then, only Prototype vehicles would do the same.
In this interview Stéphane graciously shares his personal experiences, insights and stories about his time racing with Porsche during one of the most exciting classes in history.