YOU NAME IT, BAMBER DROVE IT FAST
Earl Bamber has capped off an action packed year, which saw the twenty year old Wanganui race car driver compete in everything from the New Zealand Grand Prix to the global Superleague Formula.
Success in the Superleague Formula rates highly in Bamber's driving CV over the past twelve months, in what was a true fairy-tale story. While the Superleague Formula is not on the 'radar' of many New Zealand motorsport fans, Bamber was 'Co-commentating' the championship for the bulk of the season. That was until a driver in the championship wasn't able to complete his visa requirements for entry to China.
The fairytale began in October at the Ordos circuit located in Inner Mongolia -- where Bamber went from race commentator to race winner in the space of three days, driving for the FC-Porto team. Such were the circumstances that there was no chance for Bamber to test the unruly 750hp V12 Superleague racecar, it was straight in the deep end of the race weekend.
After starting eighth and finishing third in the first race, Bamber fought his way to twelfth from seventeenth in the second, reverse grid race. Feeling at home in a race car he'd never driven, Bamber then went on to win the Superfinal race, a five lap dash for Euro100,000.
Waking up the following day, Bamber's weekend seemed like a dream -- one which was to continue the following weekend in Beijing. Bamber again had the callup but this time for the PSV-Eindhoven team, where atrocious wet conditions made for an extremely challenging weekend for the young Kiwi.
With his natural talent shining through, Bamber kept his car on the track while many far more experienced drivers came to grief - to the point where he secured the race win in Race Two and therefore was deemed the overall winner due to the conditions forcing the Superfinal to be cancelled. The end result of Bamber's time in the Superleague Formula -- two weekends, two race wins and two hundred thousand Euro won for his teams. The only other driver to have shone so much on debut in this championship was Sebastian Bourdais, the former Toro Rosso Formula One driver.
However much earlier in the year, the flying Kiwi had already won the New Zealand Grand Prix, driving in the Toyota Racing Series for XXX Motorsport -- a title he is yet to confirm if he will defend in 2011.
Twenty years of age may seem still 'young' to most, however Bamber's forward thinking has seen him recently cast one eye to saloon car racing, a discipline he had never previously experienced. Again a totally 'last minute' scenario unfolded when the team boss of the XXX Motorsport team gave Bamber a call-up to drive his Porsche GT3 Cup Car -- half way through the qualifying session!
Bamber had a mere handful of laps in Qualifying; in a car he had never tested prior to the outing. The end result -- third place for the weekend, which was contested over three races. Not only did Bamber score reasonable finishing positions, he also set lap times faster than some of the considerably more experienced GT3 drivers. Whether he has the chance to back up these results in the GT3 class is again yet to be confirmed, but it's something the Wanganui driver is working hard on to put together the deal to complete the remainder of the season.
The final event on the calendar for Bamber was at the Pukekohe circuit, just south of Auckland, where he was asked to drive an 800hp Tranz-am. Just like all his other on track exploits in 2010, a lack of testing didn't hamper Bamber from lowering the outright lap record at Pukekohe to 54.7 seconds, the first ever driver to go under 55 seconds around the bumpy circuit in a saloon car. A fellow driver in an even faster car lowered the record even further later in the weekend, however despite Bamber's quest to lower the record even more, car issues hampered his charge ultimately.
The V8 Supercar championship is ultimately where Bamber has his sights set, and is working to progress the jump into this championship as soon as possible.
One thing Bamber has proven over the past few years is that no matter the race track, without a budget, without any testing, he has the talent to do the business on and off track. Rewinding over the previous few years, Bamber's accomplishments include winning in his first weekend in the Formula Master championship, against drivers that had already completed 80% of the season and had much greater experience in the cars.
Add to that two podiums in the A1GP championship in his first ever weekend driving the car and second place in his first GP2 race in Shanghai -- it's clear to see that the twenty year old Kiwi has serious talent, and can foot it against drivers who have the luxury of considerably more practise time behind the wheel.
While 2011 plans are still up in the air for the talented Kiwi driver, one thing is for certain; as long as it has four wheels, Earl Bamber can drive it -- and very quickly!