As far as title defenses go, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor, and their No. 912 Porsche GT Team entry spent the majority of the year wondering if their misfortunes would end.
One year ago, IMSA’s reigning GT Le Mans champions earned three victories and six podiums on their way to vanquishing the manufacturer-rich GTLM field. The tandem known as ‘BamThoor’ had a strong opening to the 2020 season, but a series of bad breaks followed, which dropped the No. 912 to the bottom of the standings as last weekend’s race in Monterey approached.
Winless through eight rounds, the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca provided welcome relief with a return to the win column for New Zealand’s Bamber and his Belgian teammate.
“We had such high hopes going into the season, especially with the new car, which we feel is better than the old one in every way,” Bamber told RACER. “I really just have to thank the team, and the Porsche program, for continuing to dig hard. Obviously, the No. 911 car won last time out at Petit Le Mans, and that was big for us as a team, and to now get a win for the 912 is like a huge release for us, too. Daytona started out strong, then our drama started at Sebring and sort of continued, and by Petit, we were at the point where we didn’t care which Porsche won the race; we just wanted to win a race for the program.
“Then to be able to follow it up at Laguna and just have a super strong weekend with our car, at a track where we’re typically not the best; it’s our first ever time that we’ve won there. So it was nice, too, to say that we won at every single track on the calendar.”
With a win in hand, and nothing to lose after the GTLM championship was settled in Corvette Racing’s favor in Monterey, Bamber took stock of a season that went sideways and kept spinning until the No. 912 arrived at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“If you list some of the things that we had go wrong, it’s just this random events of, and I don’t like to say that in racing, you make your own luck. But to be honest, some of the times that we’ve had the most bad luck that I’ve seen were Road America, where we went off while leading when it poured down with rain, and we had a radio failure on the lap when it rained and didn’t even know it was raining,” he said with a laugh. “The last information that I got was that there’d been light drizzle only, and came up on a huge amount of water falling.
“Next race, we were looking good and the BMW just punted us and broke out rear floor. And then were in Road Atlanta and on the in-lap, we had a rear tire failure, which ripped the brake line out of the car. So we lost some laps while we’re also had a big fuel advantage. And we were we’re on course to definitely beat our sister car and had a chance to jump to the lead there, so that was that. Then we had Charlotte, which wasn’t fun, and then finally Petit where we also had an accident on the last lap when we were about to be second. Not to sound negative, but we just had a bad run of things, but we didn’t do anything different than what we did to win the championship last year.
“We put the same amount of effort in, but it took almost the whole year for things to click. Last year, we had a perfect season where even on a bad day when things didn’t go well, we still managed to sort of grab a podium out of it. It hasn’t really gone that way this year, and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Seeing out the season with style, @PorscheNAracing 🏆🥇
— Mobil 1 The Grid (@Mobil1TheGrid) November 3, 2020
As the factory Porsche program heads into its farewell event on November 14 at Sebring, the fates and futures for Bamber and all of the Porsche GT Team drivers remain unanswered. How many will stay in IMSA on behalf of the German manufacturer and support customer programs? How many will race for Porsche elsewhere in the world? And will any of the drivers find themselves on the free agent market once the most successful brand in sports car racing parks its pair of GTLM 911 RSRs?
Amid the uncertainty, Bamber spoke on the one topic where definitive answers could be provided.
“We still have one more race we’re going to try and get for Porsche at the 12 Hour, so we aren’t done, but I can say that for us, and our crew, it was nice to execute sort of a perfect race and win a race for the team,” he said. “We didn’t have the quickest car, but I think we had the best strategy. And we also had the best guys on the lane. They were quicker on the pit stops in every way. So that was a real team effort to get that one. Knowing that this is coming to a close, it was finally nice and super rewarding to get one for our crew after all the work and effort that we’ve been putting in.”