Reigning FIA World Endurance Champion Marc Lieb said the allure of Bathurst has put him back at the wheel of a GT car for the first time in two years, as the German looks ahead to a new chapter in his motorsports career.
Lieb has joined Competition Motorsports for this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, teaming up with David Calvert-Jones, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long and newly promoted Porsche Junior Matt Campbell in the American team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R.
While it marks Lieb’s debut in the around-the-clock enduro, he took part in the 2013 Bathurst 1000, an event that whet his appetite to eventually return to Mount Panorama some three years later.
“Patrick [Long] and I always talked about this race,” Lieb told Sportscar365. “We all like racing in Australia, we both did the V8s, he did the 12-hour a few times.
“I couldn’t do it the last few years because we were always testing at the same time.
“I was free; the opportunity came up. It was a quick chat and it was all done in a few minutes. I really wanted to do this race so that’s why I’m here.”
The ex-Porsche LMP1 factory driver, who together with Neel Jani and Romain Dumas claimed a shock overall victory in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans en route to the world title, hasn’t raced a GT car since the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
In fact, Lieb’s first-ever laps in the Porsche 911 GT3 R came in Friday’s practice sessions, which saw the former Nurburgring 24 winner and ELMS GT2 champion get quickly up to speed.
Bathurst, in fact, could be the 36-year-old’s final race for a while, as he turns his attention to a yet-to-be-announced engineering role in Porsche’s customer racing activities.
“At the moment, my priorities will be on my new job, which will start in April,” Lieb said.
“I haven’t decided yet if I want to continue [driving] or if I’m able to continue and if I’m able to afford it time-wise.
“I’m in the situation where I don’t know if I will continue my career or not.
“I said after Bahrain that it was my last professional race and for sure it was. If opportunities come up, they will show up. I’m not really looking for drives now.
“My priority at the moment is to get everything sorted for my new job.”
Lieb revealed that he nearly gave up on his driving career more than ten years ago, just shortly after enrolling in university to pursue a degree in automotive engineering.
“When I was going to university, the plan at the time was that I would work full-time in the company and do part-time racing when I got my degree,” he said.
“This completely changed! How it all ended was quite interesting.”
Lieb said he lost his passion for driving in 2004, after a difficult season in the ALMS with Alex Job Racing, which prompted him to pursue a career in engineering.
“While I was studying, I was getting my passion [back] for racing, which I had lost before,” he said.
“I [ended up] doing a lot more than I had expected and planned. The plan was always to do eight races per year and in the end I was doing 14 or 15.
“Then I started working in Weissach in half-days. After the studies, I was racing with Richie [Lietz], Felbermayr and Proton and was successful and it was all good.
“I was able to win races, and doing it half-half, half the time in the office and half the time racing.
“Then they announced the LMP1 in 2011. I said, ‘OK, this is my chance I was hoping for’ and I tried everything I could to get into the program.”
Lieb joined the LMP1 program from the onset and played an integral role in the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s success, leading up to his World Championship-winning season.
“To finish it off like that, I think was pretty cool,” he said.
“I think it was a cool time, very successful, and LMP1 was very, very interesting and very cool to do it.
“Those high-tech cars with high-speed driving through Le Mans… Driving at Le Mans was probably the best you could do. The combination of this track with these cars… It was just mega.
“It was a great experience and I’m really happy that I’ve done it and I’m lucky to have done it.
“You go out on a high and now it’s really time to focus on other stuff, which I was planning to do seven or eight years ago.
“If I continue racing now, I would end up being in my mid-40s. Then to go back to an office job, it’s probably not a good idea.
“Now I still have at least 30 more years of work, so I can make a career there.”
As for his chances this weekend, Lieb has kept realistic expectations, knowing their primary objective will be to fight for GT3 Pro-Am class honors before anything else.
“I think we have to focus on ourselves and focus to get the maximum out of the package we have,” he said. “It’s difficult because Matt is new, everyone is new to the team.
“The only issue is that we didn’t go testing before. I think if we just roll into the race and do our race and see where we end up.
“Of course, the plan is to win the class, but in this high competition field, there’s so many good drivers and so many GT3 specialists and manufacturers involved.
“For a team like us, with a small setup, there’s no chance to go for the overall. But you never know what will happen.”