Late last year New Zealand racecar driver Earl Bamber clinched the 2013 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship with an emphatic victory in Shanghai, China after motoring from pole to take the title with a race to spare.
As a reward for his sterling work in the Porsche series, Bamber was rewarded with a chance to showcase his talents at the Porsche Motorsport International Cup Scholarship. Eight spots were awarded to the best drivers in each of the seven regional Porsche one-make series around the world plus one other.
Porsche Motorsport had the eight drivers compete against each other in the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car at the Motorsportarena track in Oschersleben, Germany over two days. To be eligible for the shoot out, drivers had to be under 26 years old and show attributes other than just being able to go fast.
In November the head honchos at Porsche Motorsport Germany announced Bamber was their man and he gets 200,000 Euro to go towards a full time drive in the 2014 Porsche Mobile 1 Supercup - the premier support category to Formula One.
If you think that was a pretty nifty gig to snag, the news only got better for Bamber when he was fired across the Pacific to test and practice for the up coming Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race, January 25-26. That now means there'll be four Kiwi drivers at the iconic event with Scott Dixon, Richie Stanaway and Shane van Gisbergen also competing.
"We managed to put something together back in late December to get up to Florida for the Daytona race," said Bamber. "There was no New Year celebration as I had to head up to the track to meet the team and get some practice in at the Roar Before the 24.
"We did a three-day test at Daytona and man is that place incredible. The banking is so amazing you get dizzy the first couple of times you go around. When you're in the banking you're leaning so far over in the car you have to look up at the windscreen.
"It's had to keep track of where you are on the track but it's an amazing experience and I'm so looking forward to my first 24 hour race."
Winning the Porsche scholarship has raised Bamber's profile quite considerably even to the extent he was picked by his US team off a roster of Porsche drivers who were available to race. The official driver line up for Bamber's ride hasn't been announced yet but he's confident he'll be sharing driver duties with some pretty useful co-drivers.
"There are some good drivers in the mix so I'm not bothered who I get to race with. I just can't wait to get back and get ready to race at Daytona. It's a different culture over there where you have different pit setups and stuff.
"Running on an oval is spectacular and you're holding on pretty tight. You're 300km/h through the oval bit tipped over on your side and people don't really know how step the banking is. It's a special place and I think the race is going to be special as well," said Bamber.
Bamber has never been to the place before but showed why teams are after his services because it wasn't long before he'd come to grips the car, the track and driving on an oval. His times were impressive and the car's (Porsche GTE America similar to a Cup Car) pace was only around half a second of the pace of the fasted cars.
"We weren't concentrating on setting the fastest lap more working on our pace over longer stints. The times we set were on our own but it won't be like that in the race.
There's a whole heap of drafting going on and it reminds me of my Formula Ford days.
"I think Shane van Gisbergen and I will have some fun in the race because we were always drafting each other in our Formula Ford days. You have to hook up with someone when it's your stint to gain three or four tenth of a second a lap. It's going to be interesting," said Bamber.
Bamber went on to explain is was pretty crazy on track with all the different categories of cars and their speed differences and you had to have eyes in the back of your head to see what was going on.
""It's very entertaining out on because there's just so much going on. You always have to check your mirrors getting onto the straight to see where everyone is and then check at the end again," said Bamber.