“WANTED: One Porsche Carrera Cup Australia car for the Gold Coast round. Le Mans-winner chasing track experience.”
That’s not exactly how Earl Bamber is going about it, but the factory Porsche racer and soon to be Supercars co-driver is chasing a bit of double-duty for the final round of this year’s Pirtek Enduro Cup.
The New Zealander is joining Shane van Gisbergen at Triple Eight Race Engineering for this year’s endurance races at Sandown, Bathurst and Surfers Paradise.
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Of those three venues, Bamber has only raced at one: Mount Panorama. Even there, despite his world championship-winning pedigree, the Supercars rookie took part in this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour to give him more seat time around the circuit.
“I think to be honest without the track experience of doing the 12 Hour I don’t think Roland (Dane, T8 team owner) and Shane would even consider me to come here, because it’s just not possible to come to a place like this and expect to be fast,” he told media during the 12 Hour weekend.
“Because the locals know it so well, the cars are challenging to drive to a high level, so also was pretty critical when doing the deal with him to say that it would be possible to come and drive here at the 12 Hour.”
That ticked one box, but ticking the other two around his schedule as a Porsche factory sports car racer is proving difficult.
With the Gold Coast street circuit only being active for one race weekend a year, Bamber is looking at competing in the supporting final round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship to boost his learning of the circuit.
“Even the idea was mooted to go do the Cup race at Gold Coast as well because it worked quite well for Andre (Heimgartner) in Supercars as well, so that’s an idea,” he said.
“I’ve got permission from Porsche to be able to do the Cup race so now I’ve just got to ask someone nicely far a car and borrow one for the weekend.
“For me it’s a big priority to go well at the 1000 and ultimately I think Shane has the same idea, so trying to do as much track time also try and learn Sandown some how as well.”
IT ALL STARTED WITH A MESSAGE ON WHATSAPP
Bamber is keen to add a Bathurst 1000 victory to a CV that already contains two outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and an FIA World Endurance Championship.
“I don’t have to do it. I’m quite entrenched with Porsche, for sure. But it’s something that I want to do,” Bamber said.
“I’ve already had success at Le Mans twice and to win the world championship as well.
“When you look and say ‘what do I want to try and win and achieve next?’ when you grow up as a kid in New Zealand, since you can remember you watched Bathurst every afternoon.
“It’s something that I’d love to do, and I said to myself if the chance comes up then I absolutely have to come and try and do the 1000 and try and win the thing, because I think it would be something nice on my CV.”
With Porsche pulling the plug on its LMP1 program and van Gisbergen’s previous co-driver Matt Campbell unable to return in 2018 due to a schedule clash, Bamber spotted an opportunity to chase a debut drive in The Great Race.
“Really, the first point of contact was WhatsApp,” Bamber said.
“Obviously I’ve known Shane for quite a few years, we grew up Formula Fords together and stuff like that. I’d never managed to be able to do any of the Supercars enduros because it had always clashed with something I was doing like Petit Le Mans or Fuji or something like that.
“I’d heard a rumour there was going to be no clash, so then I was waiting anxiously and asking many people in Supercars when the calendar came out. And literally the day the calendar came out I saw that it didn’t clash at all.
“The first person I texted was Shane and said ‘would you be interested in trying to do the co-driver races together?’ He said ‘yeah I’d be keen to do that, that’d be cool’. It went from there.
“I know Jeromy (Moore, former T8 engineer) from the LMP1 team, so I think he put in a good word to Roland. Roland was also up at Fuji, and luckily I managed to put the car on pole and drive well in the wet!
“I came down to the Gold Coast (round in 2017) and had a look around, but (Roland) didn’t say if he’d put me in, he was trying to decide between a couple of guys.
“But I wanted to come down and show I was serious, not just say ‘yes I’d like to do it’, actually seriously look at it. You need to tell the people you’re keen to do it and you need to push and try and fight.
“My main goal as well was I didn’t want to come down and go with one of the back teams, I want to go with one of the top teams because you want to try and give yourself the best shot with it.
“There’s no point saying you just competed there, you want to say you’ve competed and did well as well. It could go good or bad, but you want to be in a good car and give yourself the best possible chance.”