Two weeks ago, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber scored the biggest victory of their careers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and have found themselves at Watkins Glen this weekend, back in their GT racing roots.
The duo have rejoined the factory Porsche North America squad, primed and focused on continuing their streak of success, but trading their 1000-plus horsepower Porsche 919 Hybrid for the GT Le Mans class Porsche 911 RSRs.
“To be honest, it feels like going back home, really,” Tandy told Sportscar365.
“It was such a different feeling, especially going to Le Mans with the other Porsche team. I was there last year with the Manthey Porsche [GTE-Pro] team.
“Coming back here, it feels like you’re seeing all your friends and family, effectively.”
Tandy and Bamber are still coming off the highs of Le Mans, where they teamed with Nico Hulkenberg to give Porsche its 17th overall victory in the French endurance classic and its first since 1998.
The feat came with the most inexperienced LMP1 lineup in the race, with all three drivers having made their first prototype starts at Le Mans, and both Bamber and Hulkenberg in their Le Mans debuts.
“At one stage it will sink in what we’ve achieved,” Bamber told Sportscar365. “I think it’s something very special, especially because it’s the first time Porsche had won in such a long time.
“Also, to do it with a group of guys we did, with Nick and Nico, we couldn’t ask for any better guys to do this.”
Bamber, who became the first Kiwi to win Le Mans overall since Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon in 1966, is remarkably still in his first year as a Porsche factory driver.
The 24-year-old has been through a meteoric rise, which has seen him come through Porsche’s single-make championships, including winning the 2014 Supercup title in his rookie season.
Tandy’s path took him through a similar route, although having racked up more recent success in endurance racing, including class victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Petit Le Mans.
Following their Le Mans triumph, Bamber and Tandy’s focus is back on the GT scene with the CORE autosport-run factory effort in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
“We’re now back to the day job as such,” Tandy said. “This is what we’re asked to do for the full season.
“After 3 p.m. and a few celebrations, the thought of LMP1 stopped and the focus switched to Watkins Glen and GTLM.”
It’s been a difficult start to the season for the two-car Porsche North America squad, which has only racked up a single podium finish in the four GTLM races to date.
And while having been co-drivers at Le Mans, Bamber and Tandy are in separate cars this weekend, marking another change.
Tandy and Patrick Pilet will pilot the No. 911 Porsche while Joerg Bergmeister joins Bamber in the No. 912 entry, in what will likely be the pairings for the remainder of the season.
“We have some hard work to do here,” Bamber said. “The [TUDOR Championship] season so far has not gone so well.
“But I think we have a good car and a good bunch of guys. So we have to try and knock out a bunch of podiums for the rest of the year.”
As for 2016, the duo are already working on a plan to return to Le Mans to defend their crown.
“The first thing we need to do is convince [Porsche] to take an extra car to Le Mans again,” Tandy said. “Then we’ve got to convince them to let us get back behind the wheel!
“I’m pretty hopeful we’ll be back next year to defend our crown. It would be a dream to come back as defending champions, especially if it could be the three of us.”
But for now, their focus is on the TUDOR Championship and perhaps taking home additional silverware this weekend for the German manufacturer.