Bamber wants extended tilt at Great Race glory

Earl Bamber. Picture: Earl Bamber Motorsport Facebook

He’s got two coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans victories to his name; now Earl Bamber is hellbent on conquering Australia’s premier endurance race.

The 30-year-old from New Zealand has one prior start in the Bathurst 1000, placing fifth in the 2018 edition alongside Shane van Gisbergen.

That came as part of an endurance campaign during which Bamber nabbed a podium on Supercars debut when he and van Gisbergen combined for second in the Sandown 500.

That experience was enough to whet his appetite for a return, once possible.

Bamber was unable to race in 2019 due to a calendar clash with his overseas commitments, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc last year.

Having made his interest in another Great Race drive known, Bamber engaged in talks with new Kelly Grove Racing co-owner Stephen Grove some time ago, the duo having shared a long connection through Porsche.

The chance to pair up with compatriot Andre Heimgartner in the #7 Ned Mustang eventuated – and Bamber is hopeful of not having to wait another three years between future attempts this time.

“For me personally, it’s a big goal to win the Bathurst 1000,” Bamber told Speedcafe.com.

“As a Kiwi, it’s the race that you sit down and watch as a kid and grow up dreaming of winning.

“So for me it’s high on the priority list to try and tick that box and obviously this year it’s really cool to be able to join Kelly Grove Racing because Steve has helped me out in my Porsche career since 2013.

The #7 Ned Mustang at Mount Panorama

“I’m really excited to be able to come support them at Bathurst and help them build up their team.”

Of the prospect of chasing multiple back-to-back campaigns, he added, “[Winning the Bathurst 1000] is a goal that I want to tick off and obviously it takes more than one or two attempts.

“It really just depends on the schedule, what I end up doing… if there is a chance and if it doesn’t clash, then yes, I will definitely be there.”

Bamber grew up cheering on New Zealand legend Greg Murphy, who won the Bathurst 1000 on four occasions.

His 2018 Supercars experience gave him a great appreciation of the category’s cars.

“To be honest, when I first arrived, everyone said they’re like big taxis,” Bamber recalled.

“I think that is the word that everyone used in the past, but they are definitely not that anymore.

“It’s a purpose-built from the ground up racing car, and also I think in Australia we have the luxury where the teams operate at an incredibly high level for a domestic-based championship too, which was really, really impressive to see.

“The pedigree of motorsport in Australia is super high.

Earl Bamber

“They are producing the same lap time as a GT3 car, more or less, at the moment with far less downforce and far less tyre under it, so it does do a lot of things really, really well.”

Bamber believes the union with Heimgartner will offer a frontrunning opportunity this October.

“It’s really cool to be able to get on the grid and I think in one of the top cars and obviously have a shot at doing really, really well at that race,” he added.

“Everyone that’s coming onboard there, the team has really good momentum. They have definitely got the right goals that they want to march themselves forward to the front.

“I think Andre has proven time and time again that he’s one of the best drivers on the grid so it’s going to be cool to team up with him.

“Obviously it’s going to be a big learning curve again, getting in the Supercar and obviously this time in the Mustang, so it’s going to be interesting to see the differences but really looking forward to getting back down there and getting into it.”

United States-based Bamber is likely to travel to Australia in September ahead of the Mount Panorama classic.

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