Riccardo Mortara © Thomas Butler / Realise Creative

Italian aviator Riccardo Mortara is preparing to beat the world circumnavigation record set by legendary pilot Steve Fossett. Mortara and his crew will take off from Bucharest, Romania, on January 29, 2010, will fly eastbound, and must return to Bucharest in under 67 hours one minute and ten seconds in order to achieve a new world record.

American Fossett set the current record on February 11, 2006 in a specially-built multi-million dollar aircraft, the Virgin GlobalFlyer. In contrast, Mortara (62) and co-pilot Flavien Guderzo (26) will attempt the record in a 30 year-old mainstream business jet.

If successful, it will be an incredible underdog story and a dramatic example of skilled pilotage, exacting logistics and navigation, and no shortage of luck.

Captain Mortara, who holds Italian, French and Swiss citizenship, is no stranger to competition having been a professional ice hockey player and World Rally Championship driver in his youth. He began flying in 1972 and since then has accrued 13,000 hours of experience. He is the proprietor of Sonnig SA, a Geneva-based private jet charter company.

With a maximum take-off weight of 10,886kg, Mortara’s 1980 Rockwell Sabreliner 65 is in the same weight class as Fossett’s GlobalFlyer. The Sabreliner is faster and stronger. However, it is normally used to fly passengers in comfort and is incapable of a non-stop circumnavigation of the earth. In fact, it will require 10 carefully planned stops. The flight will be carbon neutral.

World record administrators, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, dictate that the plane and pilots must achieve a minimum distance of 36,770km, passing through all of the meridians.

The Sabreliner will fly over 31 countries and will stop in Abu Dhabi, Colombo, Macau, Osaka, Petropavlovsk, Anchorage, Las Vegas, Montreal, Keflavik and Casablanca. During the time it takes to re-fuel, the clock will be ticking. The crew aim to complete each stop in under 40 minutes.

Riccardo Mortara and his crew are taking on one of the toughest challenges in aviation.

Riccardo Mortara: “Steve Fossett was a great man, a remarkable pilot and that record time was a fantastic achievement for flying and engineering. But I believe I can do it faster! It will be a wonderful achievement if this – the first business jet ever to be produced – could beat that record. It would be like an elderly runner turning up to the Olympics and winning the marathon event. I elected to take my ‘Sabre’ on this trip, because it’s fast, strong and reliable. Its wings are built from a single piece of steel, so when you encounter turbulence you feel nothing. I feel safest in this plane. Myself and my crew have a burning desire to succeed in our endeavor, and whatever happens it will be the most exciting adventure for pilot and plane.”

So why is this on my blog, and what’s it got to do with motorsport you ask?

Well Riccardo isn’t just a pilot and former WRC driver… he’s also the father of GP2 race winner, and victor of the 2009 Macau Grand Prix, Edoardo Mortara.

Riccardo’s a great guy, one whom I feel very lucky to have got to know over the past year, and I wish him every success with his record attempt. I’ll keep you posted on his progress.