Kiwi forced out at Le Mans

By Eric Thompson

Passing manoeuvre clash bad luck for Bamber Eric Thompson

Earl Bamber's race in his Porsche Super Cup 911 was cut short while chasing down the race leader.
Earl Bamber's race in his Porsche Super Cup 911 was cut short while chasing down the race leader.

It wasn't a great weekend for Kiwi driver Earl Bamber at Le Mans. His first visit to the Circuit de la Sarthe -- in a one-make Porsche series, a support category for the 24 Hours race -- saw him take to the 13.6km track with ease.

In qualifying, Bamber planted his Porsche Super Cup car in third place on the second row of the grid.

When the flag dropped Bamber held station at third in a field of 60 cars streaming along Dunlop Bridge. Halfway through the second lap Bamber drafted second-placed Tom Dillmann, then popped out of his slipstream and passed.

The Kiwi then chased down race leader Kevin Estre. A lap later Bamber was sizing up the Frenchman, ready to pass. As he pulled alongside, the two cars touched, launching Estre's front into the air. He managed to gather control but Bamber's race was soon over as the result of a cut rear tyre.

"We actually had a really good race car. I cruised past Dillmann and caught Estre without too much trouble and started to draft him," Bamber said.

"He overshot the chicane and as I went to drive past him we touched and the rear tyre blew. We had set the fastest lap so it was a bit disappointing -- but that's motorsport. If I race 25 weekends of the year something is bound to go wrong, so I'm just looking forward to the next race."

The accident happened because of the Porsches' speed and how they can be "sucked together". When the trailing car pulls alongside the leader it hits a wall of air, causing it to slow and allowing the lead car to leap ahead again. The airflow holds them together and if neither driver is willing to give the other racing room, a coming together is highly likely.

Nevertheless, Bamber is happy with his driving and the car's performance. "Dillmann wasn't going to let the lead go easily and with two good drivers there's always going to be a fight when both drivers want to win.

"Luckily I felt the tyre start to deflate almost straight away so had enough warning to try to pull the car up in time before I got to the braking zone, and surprisingly everything was under control.

"It's incredible here. It's probably the best track in the world. People talk about it but you really don't understand it until you drive it. The cars dance and move so beautifully across the road. It's an incredible feeling. I found my feet here really quickly and it was great to be able to learn the track in a car I know well and get a feel for the environment."

Fortunately for Bamber, the competitions the other drivers were racing in -- Carrera Cup France and Carrera Britain -- are only a one-off for the Kiwi so points weren't an issue.

His next race, which is for points, is the Porsche Supercup in Austria on June 22.

- NZ Herald

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