Motorsport: Bamber amped for crack at Green Hell

By Eric Thompson

25-year-old Kiwi to share pilot duties in super-fast Porsche GT3R on arguably the toughest of the world’s all-night race circuits.
The Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber.
The Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber.

One of the biggest 24-hour races, alongside Le Mans, Spa Francorchamps and Daytona, is the Nurburgring 24 Hours at the legendary Nordschleife.

This track in northwest Germany is arguably the toughest of all the long-distance circuits in the world and has its own name - the Green Hell.

A great number of New Zealanders have raced at the Nordschleife since the 1940s in all its guises, and this year it's the reigning Le Mans 24 Hour champion Earl Bamber's turn.

The 25-year-old is a regular contestant in the US WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as a factory Porsche driver racing a 911 RSR and is second in the series after four rounds.

Always keen to race anything in the Porsche stable he can get his hands on, Bamber jumped at the chance to race at Nurburgring 24 Hours for the factory-backed Manthey Racing team. He'll co-drive with French pair Kevin Estre and Patrick Pilet and also Englishman Nick Tandy.

"To be able to do this race with such a professional and works Porsche team is fantastic," said Bamber. "The team is just up the road from the track in Meuspath and we'll be driving the new GT3R.

"Manthey Racing has won the race five times so know what it's going to be like to try and win."

This will be his first dig at the 24-hour event, but not his first time on track. Bamber has contested a couple of Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nurburgring (VLN - Association of NurburgringEndurance Cup Organisers) races in preparation for the big event and so knows his way around the rack.

"There's no point trying to learn the track on a simulator as nothing can replicate the amount of traffic. I've had good preparation having done VLN rounds one and three and the qualifying race, which means we have the blue leader lights [lets the slower cars know what's coming up behind them].

"There will be about 40 GT cars this year so it makes winning a massive challenge and really competitive."

The race is open to professionals and amateurs alike with cars ranging from home-built one-offs all the way up to factory Group GT3 cars. The race is Germany's biggest sporting event attracting a crowd of up to 200,000 spread around the 25.3km circuit (Grand Prix plus the Nordschleife northern loop). Close to 200 cars are expected to compete.

With that sort of large and disparate field and all manner of driver experience, it's going to make for a challenging lap for the professional blokes in fast cars.

"The current plan for the race is to stay out of trouble, like normal, and see how we're positioned when the sun comes up in the morning," said Bamber.

- NZ Herald

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