Friday, Feb 8 02:43pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

FEATURE: The Bamber bros on how they won the Bathurst 12 Hour

A little over a year ago Earl Bamber Motorsport was just an idea conceived over coffee in the streets of Kuala LumpurNow the team are world beaters.  


In 2017 a meeting between Earl Bamber and younger brother Will took place. Driving for FAW T2 Motorsport, Will had found success in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia on his racing return. He’d won the most races of anyone that season, but the championship went begging after a pair of retirements late in year.


Earl and Will concocted an idea to start their own team – Earl Bamber Motorsport. The brothers would share operation of the business, Will would drive, Earl would manage the operation while balancing IMSA duties. The team would also put together programs for local drivers and finally form a new pathway for Kiwi drivers to get to Asia with a Kiwi-led Malaysian-based outfit. 


The team was established and ultimately led them to their biggest scalp yet with Dirk Werner, Dennis Olsen and Matt Campbell – victory in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. This is how they got there.  


Q: Let’s go back to the start, how did the opportunity come about to set up a team and then race at the Bathurst 12 Hour?


Will Bamber (WB): There’s a long story and there’s a short story.


Earl Bamber (EB): It started off with getting a coffee. Will was trying to put a deal together to race by himself in Carrera Cup a few years ago. I said ‘if you find the budget to run the car I’ll own it.’ This was when it first started happening with me being involved. After that we decided to create our own team for Carrera Cup for 2018. That’s where it started and its got bigger and bigger from there.


WB: Then in the first season we went from two cars to three cars and then step after step we had cars in the Thailand Super Series as well. Everything got bigger. Then Earl went to Germany last year to actually speak about driving at Bathurst himself and putting together a similar line-up to the previous year. Then he ended up coming out with the question by Porsche whether we could actually run the cars from our team. So that was quite surprising I think for him.


EB: I went there trying to drive myself and ended up running two other cars. Coming from a Carrera Cup team to a GT3 team is obviously quite a big step so there was a lot more work and a lot more investment, but we got a lot of support from Porsche, Manthey Racing and a lot of guys in Australia. That’s its inception. It was also very cool with the idea to bring more Kiwi drivers up and to get them driving to forge a pathway for them. We had Reid [Harker] do one race with us last year. It’s all quite cool.




Q: How much of the team is made up of Porsche and how much of it is Earl Bamber Motorsport?


EB: It’s 90 per cent us. There were three or four personnel that were not EBM, the rest is owned by EBM and not Porsche’s. We needed to bring our own sponsors on-board as well like Giltrap Group, Sacred to be able to make the project happen. We’re still a customer team, we still rely on sponsors and drivers coming along to get the income and to be able to drive.


Q: How hard was it setting up the team, then going to Germany, being asked to run two cars and then heading to Bathurst and not being one of the drivers there.


EB: In the end, to be honest, I could have driven. I could have drive for Competition Motorsports in the Ice Break car. That was one option. I didn’t want to drive Pro-Am, I only wanted to go there with Pro. Then there was no chance to drive a Pro car so I opted to solely focus on running the two cars for the team.




Q: How many hours went into the preparation and when did you arrive at the track?


EB: I touched down on the Thursday evening the week before. We had to go to Melbourne where [Stephen] Grove was supporting us a lot with the logistics for new equipment. We had a lot of new gear coming for the event because it was our first time with a GT3. Then we had to move all that up to Sydney. We were on sight from the Monday onwards when the containers arrived. I did put it together, we did 150 hours at the circuit within the six days. That’s not even embellishing in the slightest.


Q: What were the confidence levels like coming into the event given you had one of the oldest cars there and the 991.1 version on it’s way out?


WB: Firstly it’s pretty cool to send the car off in such a way as well. Yes, we were aware the car was the older generation, but it’s been shown in the last few years that if you can put a good operation together and tick off the simple things then you can actually have a strong performance with the car as well. That was shown quite a few times before at Macau and a few other programs. It has won major endurance races in the last few years and won the Nurburgring 24 Hours as well. So there was some expectation that we could do well and have a strong performance.


WB: It was just a case of from about December 10th to when we touched that we had every little aspect covered off as best as possible, then to execute on the weekend and that do as best of a job as we could. GT3 is racing is tricky some times. Some of the performance is out your hands.




Q: That Porsche has its strengths with the fuel and its conservation, but by the end of the race it seemed pretty clear that some of those advantages were negated with the way the race played out. So how good was it to see the car come through and haul up to the lead.


WB: Yeah it was incredible. Our team did an amazing job all day on strategy. Like you said, the race ability of the car was quite tricky around Bathurst as well. We were super strong over the top, but we were without having the power of the Aston Martin and the other cars, which you need as well to make a pass at the end of Conrod Straight or into Turn 2. We were very well aware that we has to make super quick pit stops and get over the competition on the fueling and strategy. Our guys put both of our cars in contention, but the no.911 car, which people have sorta forgotten about, was actually 20 seconds ahead of the Matt Campbell car for a period. That was actually very exciting to have both cars running one and two genuinely.


WB: Then at the end the no.911 had a power steering failure and that was really disappointing. Then all the attention went to the no.912. We made more changes at the pit stops and made an ‘A-team’ and went full attack mode. Coming into the final stint we knew it was going to be tough, but didn’t know it’d be that tough. A few of the teams took a gamble on tyres and opted not to take any and that put them in front of us. They were then in the position of triple stinting tyres, hence why they were struggling with grips and we had tonnes. Matt had the job to do at the end of the day. Its hard to pass around there and he made it happen. It was incredible, one of the best drives I’ve ever seen.




Q: What was the defining moment when you guys decided to take tyres.


WB: I had a lot the engineers from a lot of the other teams come afterwards and say congrats and that they’d maybe made the wrong decision. That was the standard strategy. We were in a good position before we boxed. We knew we needed the grip to get to the end. We did a lot of analysis of the last few laps from the years before. I can totally understand why the other teams did it, they needed to take a bit of a punt to get back into contention. It may have been a bit tighter with that last safety car as well but looking at the pace it was still falling in our favour. That also made it quite interesting. Like I said, when you have 600km old tyres on it makes it tricky. Holy hell he did a good job though, hence why we were screaming.


Q: That pass at the end there that Matt Campbell made on Chaz Mostert was pretty wild. There was obviously the post-race investigation that came of the contact. What was the chat among the team like at the end of the race. We you fairly confident that you’d be fine?


WB: To be honest I was down the other end of pit lane between a few different teams trying to make them aware of us with traffic and stuff, so I was watching the TV feed. Personally, the way it was shown on TV was quite bad because there weren’t many angles. The interviews that followed didn’t really help that. We had on-board and feedback from others and we were pretty confident. THey made an awesome decision to review afterwards but once they went inside it was actually very, very clear. To be honest, we were pretty confident even before that we’d be okay.


Q: What were those last 30 minutes like in bunker sitting there in the bunker realising that you had a pretty good chance of winning it.


WB: I don’t know where the last hour or even last two hours went. It was amazing because with the no.911 crew out we had a lot of people available and everyone was just pushing to try and find to a way to seal it over the line and execute. Even as a customer team, the passion within the team was incredible. Evereyone was watching, biting their nails, and do anything they could to help out. Then Matt started to work away, took a spot, then another and another, then the race was on. I was actually surprised with the Aston Martin team because on the last restart they had their Am driver in front of us in the train. We thought they’d maybe put him into play a bit more and make it difficult, but fair play to them, he moved aside at the start and let us battle.




Q: Then that pass that Matt Campbell pulled on Jake Dennis for the lead… Did you think that was on? It looked pretty tight!


WB: I spoke to Earl and said ‘that’s the only place that its going to happen,’ it’s too hard to pass jam it up over the top. With the BOP thing we can’t really complain, were just lucky enough to come away with the win as well. It’s very difficult to race against those cars because you can’t get a tow. I figured he [Jake Dennis] might’ve moved it over more, but [Campbell] just picked up the throttle on the previous corner, ran it wide, and stuck it down the inside. Full credit to Jake Dennis as well... There was enough space for a car, tight, that’s for sure. They were pitting right next to us, they didn’t have anything bad to say to us at all either.


Q: You’ve been able to tick a pretty big box for Porsche now. The Bathurst 12 Hour was one of the last major endurance races they’d not gotten, how good is that to get that win.


WB: Yeah mate, it was incredible. I didn’t actually realise, there were a few things that were said afterwards. They hadn’t won an Intercontinental GT Challenge race before, they hadn’t won Bathurst either. I don’t think that really sunk in until today. By the time we got home we were so destroyed. It’s incredible to get that for them and also to send off the older generation car now in its last race now is massive. It’s a credit to all those guys as well who gave us a chance, people who came on and supported. Overall it was pretty emotional, there were a few guys in tears. It was cool. I know Earl is pushing pretty hard to make sure that car is kept because it is a significant part of motorsport.


Q: What happens to that car now? Will it end up in the Porsche Museum?


WB: It should be retired. We had some VIPs there who I thinking are pushing pretty hard to make sure that it ends up in the museum. I’d love to see it there. We were definitely talking about it. It is a special piece, it’s the last race they haven’t won and have been trying many, many years now. And also the fact that with Earl going through the pyramid with Porsche and being a works driver and starting this team together. It’s something a bit different as well. Let’s see. It would be really cool to see it there and would be something very special.




Q: What’s next for you guys? Do you get any down time or are you straight back into it?


WB: Today has been the first one in a while that we’ve put the feet up a little but. We had some time by the pool, which was nice and just had a few moments. We’ve just been going through messages and photos and other content from the weekend. It’s amazing. We have so much fan support now as well, which is pretty cool. Earl flies to Germany today to have a meeting about the event. Planning already begins for the next one, then he’s got to go to fitness camp. For me I’ve got to do some travelling around Asia and see all our partners for the season for Carrera Cup and other things. Hopefully we’ll be able to announce some things soon. The cars are looking great, and we just received our cars for Carrera Cup in Malaysia today. It’s a pretty busy time. There’s not many weekends free but I’m buzzing and so is Earl.


WB: I just want to say a thank you to everyone who has messaged or supported us. Neither of us have ever had so many followers and comments so that was really special. The idea behind this car is that we keep this as our ‘Grello’, that we keep this car for special events. I’m looking forward to the day when we see a Kiwi in it. We’re still trying to find ways to open these doors more. With Reid Harker moving up it’s an awesome step forward. We’re just trying to give more opportunities to Kiwis to make things happen. We’re starting to get there, slowly, which is cool.




WB: You might’ve seen the ‘hands on’ approach from the guys. Everyone was there every night, even our sponsors were there helping out. The level in the garage was extremely high. They were so impressed with what we managed to put together in such a short amount of time. It will always be something that we take away for sure. Even I was the car controller for the race. I was on the lollipop. I’ve got to thank the drivers for not breaking my legs or something so I can race again. It was a different experience. That illustrates that everyone had to get involved. Even Earl was on the shortlist to be a carcontroller as well.


Only a day after the win Earl and Will were back in Kuala Lumpur organising their Porsche Carrera Cup Asia campaigns. Just four hours after the interview Earl flew to Germany to meet with Porsche Motorsport executives to debrief. No doubt it will have been a positive meeting.