For many drivers, a seat with a LMP1 factory squad is considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with two of Porsche’s star GT pilots set to get that chance this year as part of an ambitious dual-platform program.
Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, who both line up in today’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, will be trading their Porsche 911 RSRs for the German manufacturer’s 919 Hybrid come June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, as the pairing make the step up to the prototype ranks for the first time.
Tandy and Bamber were announced last month as the final two drivers of Porsche’s LMP1 effort for the French endurance classic, teaming alongside Formula One ace Nico Hulkenberg in a third factory entry.
While most manufacturers have stacked their lineups with F1 talent, Porsche has also promoted from within, with both making the rapid transition after having been selected by top brass following a series of tryouts during the winter.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Bamber told Sportscar365. “I was talking with a few friends that last year, doing the Mobil 1 Supercup and now driving the LMP1 car is a pretty phenomenal step. It’s really amazing.
“I think the biggest thing you have to respect with Porsche is the pyramid they’ve gone by. With me, I think I’m almost the perfect example, [going] from Cup Challenge to Carrera Cup, Supercup,  RSR and now with the LMP1 car.”
The 24-year-old New Zealander’s meteoric rise through Porsche’s ladder saw him capture the 2014 Supercup championship, which led to a factory GT seat with Porsche North America in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
What Bamber didn’t expect was to get a phone call from Porsche to test the 919 Hybrid, let alone land one of the most coveted seats in all of motorsports, all in an extremely accelerated timeframe.
“It was always a dream of mine because for me, at the moment, LMP1 racing is the pinnacle of motorsport,” he said. “To join the squad in the first year is something that I never expected. I remember exactly the time when I was told [I got the drive]. That will be something that I’ll carry forever.”
For Tandy, who became a factory GT driver in 2013, the LMP1 opportunity came after years of success around the world in 911s, including class wins at Daytona, Petit Le Mans as well as a solid first season in the TUDOR Championship.
“It means the world for me to race with Porsche, whether it’s over here in the TUDOR Championship or whether it’s in the WEC with Manthey or the LMP1 team,” he said. “The great thing for me is that I get to drive a Porsche. That’s the best thing.”
As two of the most recent factory pilots, Tandy and Bamber represent the new breed of drivers within the camp and ones who have been able to quickly adapt to new challenges presented to them.
Both have gone into the LMP1 opportunity with no previous prototype experience, although Bamber boasts recent high-downforce experience in A1GP and GP2, with Tandy crediting his versatility in open-wheel and GT machinery for helping him get up to speed.
“Honestly, I drive so many different types of cars and I have my own racing back at home where we run youngsters in Formula cars,” Tandy said. “It’s quite often that I jump in those cars to do some testing or to help out. Then I’ll go race the RSR or the the GT3 car.
“There’s certain things that you get used to, things like the way the steering wheels operate and the dash and stuff like that. Actually driving a car and finding the lap time is all quite similar, so there really isn’t much of an issue.”
While both are set for their LMP1 debuts as part of a two-race program that includes the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as the traditional dress rehearsal for Le Mans, Tandy and Bamber will also undertake what’s likely to be a full plate of races Stateside with Porsche North America’s factory GTLM program.
It presents a diverse mix of racing, spread across two distinct platforms, a challenge Bamber is looking forward to in Porsche’s bid for key wins and championships in both series.
“At the end of the day, our job is to get the best possible result for Porsche,” Bamber said. “On my side, with both programs, that’s my focus.
“I think putting us in the car shows that they trust in us. We don’t really need to prove anything more. It’s just a matter of delivering what they need to get the results.”