Earl Bamber admitted that it was a very “nerve-racking” experience bringing the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR to the finish of Saturday’s Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach with a deteriorating diffuser.
The Kiwi and co-driver Laurens Vanthoor picked up their first GT Le Mans class victory of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season and have taken over the points lead following the up-and-down race for the Porsche factory driver duo.
It began on the opening lap with Vanthoor was tagged by the No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Oliver Gavin at the fountain corner, damaging the rear of the GTE contender.
While continuing on with the damage and eventually moving into the class lead, the broken diffuser progressively got worse throughout the 100-minute race, to the point where the CORE autosport-run crew had a spare diffuser on the pit wall in the closing laps.
“It was very nerve-racking with the diffuser,” Bamber told Sportscar365. “You could feel it and you could hear it breaking more and more.
“If it was a standard-length race, for sure we would have been done. It’s completely broken in half in the middle.”
Both Bamber and Vanthoor said the damage didn’t appear to affect the car’s aero as much as they would have expected, although they encountered other challenges as a consequence of the damage.
“I think it was lucky it was a slow speed track,” Bamber said. “If it was a really high-speed track with aero, then we would have been in a lot of trouble.
“But for sure we were lacking on braking. We were locking rears like crazy.
“I had no tire on the right rear by the end but I think everyone was struggling for tires at the end of the race.
“I was surprised how [the competition] really cliffed at the end.
“The Corvettes looked super strong at the end of the race and that wasn’t obviously helping our tire deg because we had a broken diffuser.
“When the tire is new, it’s sort of masking [the diffuser issue] and when it got older and older and the diffuser was breaking more and more, we were struggling like hell at the end.
“I think we were lucky it was a 100-minute race today!”
While Saturday’s win marked two-in-a-row for Porsche in WeatherTech Championship competition following Nick Tandy, Patrick Piet and Fred Makowiecki’s class victory at Sebring, it was Bamber and Tandy’s first IMSA win since Mid-Ohio last year.
“We’ve had our fair share of bad luck so now it’s time for a bit of luck,” Bamber said.
“It’s awesome for the guys; they did a flawless job on the pit road. They’ve been working really hard on that and just hard on everything.
“In GTLM at the moment, it’s so close with everyone and everything, it’s just about who’s not making mistakes.”