Earl Bamber says the chemistry between he and co-driver Laurens Vanthoor, along with a strong car from Porsche, helped produce a “really fantastic season” that ended with their first-ever IMSA GT Le Mans drivers’ championship.
Bamber, Vanthoor and the team’s Michelin Endurance Cup driver Mathieu Jaminet took the No. 912 Coca-Cola-sponsored Porsche 911 RSR to a fifth place class finish in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans, enough to win the GTLM title.
It came in a dominant season from Porsche, which scored six wins out of 11 races and went 1-2 in the standings and clinched the manufacturers’ championship by just rolling off the grid for the ten-hour enduro at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Bamber explained that he and Vanthoor took a methodical approach to the championship bid after a season of highs and lows in 2018.
“Laurens and myself sat down in the winter time and we had a good hard look at all of the mistakes we made,” Bamber told Sportscar365.
“We actually looked at what the Corvette guys did, the No. 3, because I think they’ve been the reference for many, many years about how to win this championship.
“So we looked at what strengths they had, what weaknesses they have and what ours. I think we formulated a pretty good plan.
“Porsche gave us a good car all season long as well. Arguably it was not always the fastest but we managed to strategize our way.
“I think the way they split the strategies, some days we hated it, some days we loved it. But overall it worked for the manufacturer and we managed to get 1-2 in the drivers’ championship as well.
“We had the goal of winning but you never expect to have such a season, to have a such a gap coming into the last race where you could be comfortable.”
The 29-year-old Kiwi, who joined Vanthoor on the heels of his second overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 title in 2017 following the demise of Porsche’s 919 Hybrid program, said he had “one clear guy” he wanted to team up with in the WeatherTech Championship.
Their relationship as drivers and friends quickly developed on-and-off the track, with the nickname #BamThor rising to fame over the corse of this year.
“When I came back from the LMP1 program and we discussed about teammates, there was one clear guy that I wanted to team up with and it was Laurens,” Bamber said.
“Now we go around the world and nearly race every race we do in the same car. We know each other super well, sometimes too well, but we manage to get the most out of each other.
“There wouldn’t be another guy I’d want on the timing stand helping me, nor in the car, we trust each other 100 percent and know what our goals are.”
GTLM Title “Equal” to Le Mans, WEC Success
Bamber said winning the IMSA GTLM championship is nearly equal to all of his previous success on a global scale, largely due to the high level of competition the class has delivered.
“Even though it doesn’t have the world championship status, I think it’s, to be honest, even harder to win here,” he said.
“We have eight top teams with all the best drivers in the world with some of the best tracks in the world. What’s nice is the strategy aspect.
“If you look at a WEC race, you’d have a pretty boring format once you start racing.
“There’s not much variation to do something. Where here, you have to be on top of everything, from fuel, tires, driver changes, what’s going to happen with yellows.
“It’s very, very satisfying when you do these races.
“For us, our most satisfying race was Road America where we finished third. We had probably a sixth or seventh place car and I think that’s the beauty of racing in America.”