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Best Car, Worst Car, Dream Car: Earl Bamber

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Porsche factory man and two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber is next on the Best, Worst, Dream Car challenge on DSC. In his career he’s driven a variety of GT, prototype and single-seater machinery around the world, so has plenty of stories to tell and a good selection to pick from for this feature.

This feature was feared lost but was mislabelled – now presented about a year after Stephen Kilbey interviewed the talented Kiwi

The best car I’ve ever raced is… The 2015 Porsche 911 RSR

“I would have to say the 2015 American RSR.

“It was an awesome car. We ended up with a high downforce package on it, and we ended up with the infamous BB super soft tyre that was used in the US that time, that was when we still had a tyre war with Falken and Michelin. Michelin made it work and we were on rails, breaking quite a few lap records and taking the Petit Le Mans win overall with that car.

“It was really well balanced. Had great aero and was nice to drive. We always talk about that era of cars today. It was my first year with Porsche too.

“I think the way the tyres now are good, as there’s still a tyre war within a tyre war, and you have to pre-select tyres and stuff like that. It’s a good way to control cost. It’s a shame though there aren’t more tyre manufacturers and car manufacturers on the grid now, but I guess we’ve just come out of a golden era of GTE racing.”

The worst car I’ve ever raced is… The Superleague Formula Panoz DP09

“I’ve driven some pretty crappy stuff in my time. It’d pretty horrible to name someone…. But actually, I did race in Superleague. This is a good story.

“I was commentating at that time, and I wasn’t supposed to race. In China (at Ordos), Alvaro Parente didn’t realise you needed a visa to get there. So he didn’t get there, because there was a contract to race all the cars and I was the only driver to have been to Inner Mongolia, Robin Webb asked me to quit my commentating job and race. They didn’t have money and weren’t paying drivers, so I said no because I would lose money.

“So they had to pay me to drive (with FC Porto), equal to the commentary fees. I also had no gear, so I used spares from everyone else. If you look at the photos I’m wearing John Martin’s rain helmet for the races. I finished second in Race 1, somehow, then I managed to get to the Super Final. I knew if I had five good laps I could win something. I finished second on the road and Franck Perera got a penalty for pulling up at the wrong grid spot so I won the Super Final.

“Then we went to the second race in China and I was asked to race again. I drove another car (PSV Eindhoven), it was really shit. No prep was done. The previous driven had glazed the brakes so you couldn’t brake at all. The teams would grind down the carbon brakes to get the glaze off them. The other funny thing was, is that the circuit was in Beijing around the Olympic Park, and all the drivers complained it was too quick. Soucek had a big shunt. So we asked them to put cones out, to make a chicane to slow it down. We came to the track expecting a second gear chicane, but they didn’t add to the cones, they left them and expected us to drive around the cones. That didn’t work.

“And during all this I was driving a horrible car, but won the Super Final again because the weather was so bad they cancelled it. So actually statistically it’s one of my most successful cars.

“They were ok to drive, just nobody had any money to prepare them. Everything ran over mileage. One of the best single seaters I drove was the Ferrari chassis A1GP car. The car was phenomenal, I did a 9-something at Brands, the lap record.

“Also, It wasn’t the worst car I’ve driven, but it’s a good story, but I was doing World Time Attack with some friends. The cars are phenomenal, close to A1GP car speed, with a road car tyre. All of them are home built out of random workshops. I was with Murray Coote, and he built an S13 and it had about 700 horsepower when I drove it. We had stock evo brakes, the pedal was going to the floor. And we finished fifth I think.

“There was so much downforce that the power-steering oversaturated. One time the rear wing, which was bolted on, it collapsed and to fix it we put jack stands under the rear wing support space and taped them into the boot. Another time I was at Eastern Creek in it and the steering wheel came off in my hands, it was real shock horror. That paints a bad picture, but it’s really fun because there aren’t any rules and everyone in the paddock helps each other. It’s a great community.”

The car I’ve always wanted to race is… Rothmans Porsche 962

“The Rothmans 962, they looked like beasts and they had so much downforce. The stories of the speeds they could get to were amazing. I’ve spoken to Jacky and Derek Bell, and I find it phenomenal what they were doing, how fast they were.

“One thing I didn’t realise was how much is how much of a fuel saving race it was back then, and how much mileage management was required. I didn’t know until I spoke to the guys. You think about conserving the car, but I didn’t know about the fuel until recently. It’s interesting talking to them about how they did it, and the safety.

“There’s a boost gauge, which is out of reach to the driver, and sometimes they would loosen their belts and wind them up more. Quite amazing. When they went down the back-straight at Le Mans, they would have to lift for two or three seconds each lap to dissipate the heat out of the turbo, to stop it blowing from generating so much heat. How on earth did they do that, at night too?

“One of our engine guys on the 919 project, moved on to be involved in building the block-based engines from North America and doing restoration on these things. When they started, they pulled the cars apart and obviously the ECU is huge on it. But when they started looking at the mapping and tried to replicate the power and stuff like that, it was super complicated. They couldn’t do it. So they had to call up the original guys to find out more how they did what they did. It was so cutting edge that even now, with technology moving so far, that aspects of cars from that era are still impressive.

“Porsche now reproduce the engine, and you can buy a new one now, if you’re racing historics.”