Another young Kiwi racing car driver has moved up the slippery pole of international motorsport. A few weeks ago Earl Bamber clinched the 2013 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship with an emphatic victory in Shanghai 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 given a chance to showcase his talents with 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 more.
Porsche Motorsport had the eight drivers compete against one another in the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup at the Motorsportarena track in Oschersleben, Germany, over two days. To be eligible for the shoot-out, drivers had to be under 26 and show talents other than just being able to go fast.
Last weekend the head honchos at Porsche Motorsport announced Bamber was their man, and he gets 200,000 ($324,675) to put towards a fulltime drive in the 2014 Porsche Mobile 1 Supercup - the premier support category to Formula One.
"It's absolutely fantastic being able to win the scholarship," said Bamber. "It was a goal of mine at the start of the year to get into the scholarship programme and then to win it against such strong competition is really incredible.
"To become part of the Porsche family is a massive opportunity. I got the phone call to say I had been successful and then I signed the contract Sunday morning before my race [in the Porsche Cup at Macau Grand Prix]."
What must have sealed it for Porsche Motorsport was watching Bamber put his car on pole at the Abu Dhabi round of the Supercup series in only his second tilt in the championship. Going faster than most of the world's best Porsche exponents, then backing it up with a podium finish, would have made the choice easy for the scholarship decision-makers.
"Put it this way, it was quite amazing to be able to get that pole position and it probably improved my chances of getting the scholarship. It also probably helped coming to Macau as a rookie and winning," said Bamber.
Bamber certainly appeared to enjoy his first outing on the Macau Grand Prix circuit, enough to hold off a hard-charging Sebastien Loeb to stand on top of the podium. The recent run of wins in a car Bamber hasn't spent much time in over the years just goes to show what a talent the young man is.
The nine-time world rally champion's scalp isn't such a bad thing to have on your mantelpiece.
"It was a wet day and after qualifying I was sitting on the grid waiting for the lights to go out. You know it's going to be a hard race when you look in your mirror and see Sebastien Loeb sitting behind you - especially in the wet with the skills he has.
"I got a fantastic start but soon discovered the car was aquaplaning down the straight and that was pretty dicey. You knew it was a bit scary when Loeb says afterwards, 'That was quite interesting.' The only difference between us was that I managed to go a bit quicker in the early part of the first lap and could then stay ahead of him," said Bamber.
To most people 200,000 is a small fortune, but in the rarefied atmosphere of international racing it's not that much. The amount Bamber won in the scholarship will be about half what he needs to contest the eight rounds of the championship.
He has a number of teams already keen and expressing an interest in his services for next year, as the Kiwi has already proved he can mix it with, and beat, the best Porsche pilots in the world.
"There've been a few teams interested in having a talk with me after they found out I won the scholarship," said Bamber. "But as always it's about the money and I won't know who I could be driving with next year until a contract is signed."