We take a look back at some of the key moments in Porsche’s four-year run with the 919 Hybrid through the eyes of those involved with the championship-winning program. Next up is two-time Le Mans winner and newly crowned WEC champion Earl Bamber.
Earl Bamber’s meteoric rise from Porsche Carrera Cup Asia to becoming an overall winner in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in less than 20 months could arguably be considered as one of the biggest success stories to come from the Porsche 919 Hybrid program, which draws to a close next weekend in Bahrain.
The Kiwi, who fell off the radar following stints in A1 GP and Superleague Formula at the close of the decade, will remarkably complete his tenure as a factory LMP1 driver with two outright Le Mans wins and the 2017 World Drivers’ Championship to his credit, having clinched the title alongside Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in last weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai.
“It’s been very special,” Bamber told Sportscar365. “My first mission with the Porsche factory program was with the 919 at the beginning of 2015 so that was special and I learned a huge amount.
“To come back this time, full-time, was very cool. It was my first time fighting for a World Championship and it’s been a great year with Brendon and Timo as well.
“I’m still very young at Porsche and still learning a lot so it’s just a privilege to be a part of the program.
“They could have chosen anyone they’d like in the world, so to be chosen to drive that car, especially because it’s the last year, is pretty special to have the chance to be here and learn from the guys. It was neat.”
Bamber, who won back-to-back Carrera Cup Asia titles in 2013-14, as well as the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup crown in 2014, became a full-fledged Porsche works driver in 2015 and got the call up to join Nick Tandy and Formula One star Nick Hulkenberg at the wheel of the German manufacturer’s third Porsche 919 Hybrid for Le Mans that year.
Their unexpected win, the first of a hat-trick of Le Mans victories for Porsche, was something for the ages.
“For sure, you aim to be a factory driver, but you don’t expect to go straight into being at the top,” Bamber said.
“That was a big thing, especially from doing Supercup in 2014 and going straight into the LMP1 program at the beginning of 2015. It was the first thing that I did after Petit Le Mans in October.
“It was super cool, and obviously I had some big shoes to fill. It was also great that the guys at the top gave the responsibility to Nick and myself to give some young guys from GTs a go in the program. ”
Having been Porsche’s only repeat Le Mans winner in the 919 Hybrid era, Bamber admits the first victory will always stand out in his career.
“It’s very hard to say but I’d say the first one is always a special one, just because it’s your first,” Bamber said.
“We went there as a rookie team, no-one really expected too much from us, and we managed to come out on top by one lap on pace. That was a really, really special one.”
Remarkably, Bamber only turned his first laps in the car less than six months prior, in a test at Abu Dhabi that ultimately led to him getting the seat.
“The first time ever powering up the hybrid system was pretty interesting, with all the sounds and the lights,” he said.
“You don’t get so much running so you’ve got to be straight onto it. The first time you release the pit limiter, the power is absolutely incredible, but after that, you get used to it.
“Obviously, the cars develop so much as well so that’s been fantastic to see from 2015 to now, both the development of the car and of the team. It’s a really great core group of guys and a great team to be with every weekend.
“We win and lose together so it’s great fun to go racing with them every weekend.”