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Bamber joins KGR for 2021 Bathurst 1000

Kelly Grove Racing has signed Le Mans winner Earl Bamber for the 2021 Bathurst 1000.

Andre Heimgartner, Kelly Grove Racing

The Kiwi, best known for his long association with Porsche in sportscar and GT racing, is set to partner countryman Andre Heimgartner in the #7 KGR Mustang.

It will mark a second Bathurst 1000 start for the two-time Le Mans winner, who finished fifth alongside Shane van Gisbergen in the 2018 edition of the Great Race.

He's also enjoyed success at Mount Panorama in GT racing, taking Class B wins at the Bathurst 12 Hour as a driver in 2014 and 2015 before winning the race outright as a team owner in 2019.

Those Class B wins came sharing an entry with KGR co-owner Stephen Grove.

"For me success at Mount Panorama in the 1000 is one of the items on my racing bucket list and to do it with Andre who’s a fellow Kiwi would be fantastic," said Bamber.

“When I raced at the Bathurst 1000 in 2018 the atmosphere was incredible, the race means so much to the fans and the teams and it’s the one race that every single driver wants to win. It’s one of the coolest and most competitive endurance events that I’ve raced in.

“I’m really looking forward to working with André, he’s a young guy who is starting to cement his place as a competitive force in the championship with really solid and consistent results.

"The team are all really pushing hard with the car development at the moment too and the results of that are starting to show so it’s definitely an exciting time for Kelly Grove Racing and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

Heimgarter added: “Earl is someone that I’ve obviously paid close attention to over the years being from New Zealand and he’s had a huge amount of success in racing internationally.

“Things like winning the 24 hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship are two of the biggest accolades you can have shy of winning a Formula 1 World Championship so his resume is certainly very impressive.”

“Earl has raced in Supercars before, but it has been a few years and with a different car so there might be some acclimatisation required for him to get comfortable, but I have no doubt he’ll be very competitive and give Ned Whisky Racing the best chance of success.”

Bamber's appointment casts serious doubt over whether former Bathurst 1000 winner Rick Kelly will be on the grid this year.

The 2006 Supercars champion retired from full-time driving at the end of last season, before signing a test and ride day deal.

He was expected to line up with Heimgartner for the Great Race too, however will now need to look outside his family team if he wants a seat.

The only Bathurst seats left are at two each at Team Sydney and Matt Stone Racing, although team owner Jono Webb is likely to partner Fabian Coulthard in the lead Sydney entry.

Another option could be Dick Johnson Racing, which technically has Scott McLaughlin and Tony D'Alberto locked in for Bathurst. US-based McLaughlin, however, may not be able to make the trip due to ongoing border restrictions.

Kelly may also elect to sit out the race, his brother Todd having gone cold turkey when he stepped back from full-time racing at the end of the 2017 season.

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