IMSA: Le Mans winners head to Watkins Glen

IMSA: Le Mans winners head to Watkins Glen


IMSA: Le Mans winners head to Watkins Glen


The last time an overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans followed up their victory in France with a race in North America, Peugeot’s David Brabham, who shared the victorious Peugeot 908 HDi FAP with Alex Wurz and Marc Gene, made the trek from La Sarthe to Lime Rock in 2009 where he placed second.

The Australian would go on to win the ALMS P1 category that year with Scott Sharp driving their Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a, and the latest members to join the club come from the No. 19 factory Porsche 919 Hybrid that claimed an emphatic win at the 24 Hour classic on June 14.

New Zealand’s Earl Bamber and England’s Nick Tandy (ABOVE, LEFT & RIGHT) will trade their wicked Porsche LMP1-Hybrid for their regular mounts as part of Porsche North America’s works 911 RSR program (BELOW) in IMSA’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, and compared to Le Mans, they’ll have a sprint race on their hands at the Six Hours of The Glen.

Bamber, Tandy, and Nico Hulkenberg celebrated the biggest victories of their respective careers immediately after Le Mans, and according to the Kiwi, coming down from the high at Le Mans was easy to do with another race on the horizon.

“The past week has been really crazy: First of all, I don’t think we can really believe what we managed to pull off at Le Mans…then it’s been a week of the glamorous stuff for the superstars…like do the washing and do a little bit of cooking and cleaning at home,” Bamber told RACER. With a final destination of Upstate New York in mind, the 24-year-old Kiwi – who lives in Malaysia – has been busy logging miles before catching a flight to America for this weekend’s race in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR.

“From Le Mans, I drove up to Stuttgart,” he continued. “Then I stayed the night there. Then I popped in and dropped off the car that I had for two months while I was in Europe. Managed to catch up with the gearbox and engine team as they were in debrief. I popped my head in and thanked them for all their efforts because, I mean, they just did an absolutely fantastic job and I know they had a lot of sleepless hours.

“Then I flew back home to Malaysia then just caught up with some friends. Actually, caught up with the guy that started it all up with the Carrera Cup, the guy that sponsored me the first year and also bought me the car for the first year. He was over the moon. He said he was in tears. When I crossed the line he said he was in tears because he couldn’t believe that two years ago we were driving in the Cup car and now to watch it all play out on TV at Le Mans. Then to Dubai for a few days catching up with a young kid that I train, then to Watkins Glen.”

Hopefully IMSA will heavily promote the fact that they have two of Le Mans’ overall winners racing two weeks later at Watkins Glen, and that they also have the winning Corvette Racing team returning from France where they earned the first class victory for the Corvette C7.R.

Bamber and Tandy, along with their Porsche teammates, will duel with Corvette’s Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in a mighty GT Le Mans battle royale, and as Bamber shares, a chance to finally drive the rolling circuit is long overdue.

“I’m full GT mode on now as well; I’m actually really, really looking forward to Watkins Glen,” he enthused. “I went there once in 2007 when I was 17 to watch the NASCAR race there and that track was really awesome, so I’m really looking forward to going back there and getting to drive.”

Bamber also says trading more than 1000hp with his Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid for 500hp in a GTLM Porsche 911 RSR is far from a letdown.

“It’s not a letdown at all; GT is what I have been doing for the last three years, and I remember when I did my first TUDOR race last year at Petit Le Mans in the GTLM category – I really loved the racing,” he noted. “When I first got in I thought, ‘OK, it’s a long race, take your time.’ And then all of a sudden you got guys bumping and pushing you. It’s basically like an endurance Porsche Supercup race – that’s the easiest way to put it. The guys are going flat out; they’re racing very hard for track position. And the racing is just really, really good against some really top world-class drivers.”

The combination of the drivers in GTLM and the full Watkins Glen road course layout has Bamber pining for his second major win this month.

“I think as drivers, what you like to do is test yourself against the world’s best,” he explained. “I think even though you have a regional championship like IMSA, you have some of the world’s best drivers there. You’ve got the Corvette crew that’s coming back from the Le Mans win. All the BMW guys that are looking strong as well. Unfortunately, Nick [Tandy’s] in the other Porsche so I have to go against him now as well, but all you can say it’s just awesome racing there.”

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“I mean, when you go to the track and in the U.S., I haven’t been to many, I’ve seen Watkins Glen as a spectator and it looks amazing. Some of the tracks that we go to and we’ve got coming up are really, really cool as well. I’m really looking forward to the second half of the season.”

Bamber’s big smiles on the podium at Le Mans were instantly recognizable, and if he has his way, fans near Victory Lane at Watkins Glen will get another glimpse of the smiley Kiwi.

“It’s cool that we get to go from Le Mans to Watkins Glen, and we already have so much support from Porsche and so many fans that support everything we do,” he said. “It’s great to see that Nick gets a lot of coverage and press now as a very big name, a British driver. And for me, from New Zealand, it’s also been great.

“One of the TV presenters pushed the fact that we’re predominantly a cricket and rugby country but we need to focus on our drivers, too, so I know we’ll have a lot of people looking at us this weekend in America. And I didn’t know what to do with myself after we won at Le Mans; I just went in a circle until we got down to the car, and yeah, at that point, I just smiled the whole time. I wish Nick and I could be in the same car, but either way, let’s try to break out a smile this weekend.”