Earl Bamber’s first-ever laps in the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo nearly broke the track record at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, despite the Kiwi not even attempting to set a competitive time.
The two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner revealed that he unofficially clocked a 1:07 lap during Friday morning’s closed session for the 1,000-plus horsepower LMP1-based car, as part of festivities at Porsche’s Rennsport Reunion VI.
His time was less than two seconds from Marc Gene’s 1:05.786 lap set in a Ferrari F2003-GA Formula 1 car that was set in 2012.
The official track record, from a timed session at the California circuit, is held by Helio Castroneves, who set a 1:07.722 lap in qualifying for the 2000 CART race.
“It was amazing,” Bamber told Sportscar365 after the run. “The only other time I drove it was in a rollout once when they first ever had it.
“Now it’s absolutely nuts. It’s quite crazy to drive [for] the first time here compared to the  RSR we drove here a few weeks ago. My mind was just going crazy.
“This track is quite hard. You don’t have any time to gather your thoughts. It’s that fast.”
Bamber said his first lap around the 2.238-mile circuit was in the 1:11 range, some five seconds faster than Jordan Taylor’s pole-winning time for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race earlier this month.
What’s more, Bamber, who was clocked at 186 mph on the front/straight speed trap, said he wasn’t even pushing the limits of the 919 Hybrid Evo during his initial five-lap stint.
The German manufacturer has stated it will not attempt a record-breaking run this weekend after claiming new track records earlier this year at Spa and the Nürburgring Nordschleife, both of which were conducted as private tests.
“It’s more of not really pushing the car to the limit, it’s just getting the speed,” Bamber said.
“The car has so much [of a] safety margin to do that sort of time, but your mind and brain, especially around Laguna, because you can imagine how quick it is going down the hill and stuff and one corner leads into the next…
“It was a bunch of fun and so cool.”
The Kiwi said he felt honored to be one of the final drivers to drive the car, with the 919 Hybrid Evo set to be retired to the Porsche Museum following this weekend’s event.
Additional “exhibition laps” are planned for the car on Saturday and Sunday.
“They told us to go out and have a bunch of fun in it,” Bamber said.
“When you dream as a kid, you always want to drive a Formula 1 car. I think when you drive that thing you don’t need to drive a Formula 1 car because it’s just so insane and has so much grip. It was so stuck to the road; it was like playing Scalextrics.
“You get a smile on your face. That’s what the event is about. I can’t wait to go back out again.”