He had 20 years of racing behind him in 1981, but he had another 20 to go. Rudy Bartling has been described as Canada’s most experienced endurance racer, and Sebring was his second home, as he started that Florida endurance classic 17 times, between 1972 and 1996, the most of any Canadian driver and fifth among all drivers.
Bartling hired himself out for various racing teams throughout his career, driving a series of Porsches not only at Sebring, but in such major venues as the IMSA Camel GT races, the BF Goodrich Sundown Grand Prix, and the Molyslip Endurance Series.
He began racing in the early 1960s, and was the 1962 under two-liter Canadian champion with his Porsche Carrera. After numerous victories including the Oak Cup at Mosport, he placed fourth in the 1968 Road America race with co-driver Ludwig Heimrath in a McLaren Elva.
In his first appearance at Sebring, he placed seventh overall, and took four top-ten finishes at the ex-airport road course, his best placing a sixth overall in 1977.
During his career, Bartling proved he could work on cars successfully as well as drive them. He turned the wrenches for noted California Porsche racer Vasek Polak, first in 1965, and again in 1973 with the Porsche 917 Turbo that was driven by Jody Scheckter.
He continued to race in endurance contests throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, driving with Klaus Bytzek, and the team won four of five Molyslip races in 1997 to win this championship. Also in the same year he was campaigning a Porsche 911 of his own, placing third in the Canada GT Challenge Cup.
Bartling’s success as a racer is only a part of his career. Along with his mechanical skills, the respect from his fellow racers and teams mark his achievements in the world of Canadian motorsport.
Image by Jerry Melton via Etceterini