All Kiwi eyes will be focused on Brendon Hartley in the number 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid this weekend at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
And why not? Hartley is part of the works Porsche team on their return to the prototype class for the first time in 16 years.
However, there is another New Zealander belting up to have his own dig at doing well on one of the most famous tracks in the world of endurance racing — the Circuit de la Sarthe outside the city of Le Mans west of Paris, France.
Porsche GT3 exponent Earl Bamber will be racing in his fifth different Cup series of the one-make championship.
This year he will have raced in the Porsche Carrera Cups in Asia, Germany, France, the UK, and in the Porsche Super Cup.
Since the defence of his PCCA, Bamber has probably spent more time in a Porsche Cup car than he has in his own bed and has notched a damn fine record, including race wins, along the way.
“I have been pretty busy this year racing and I still get excited every time,” said Bamber.
“I really look forward to the challenges and it’s been a bit up and down racing in Europe. Super Cup was okay, finishing ninth, but unfortunately we got turned around in the last Carrera Cup Germany race.
“When you race for 25 weekends you’re bound to have a few bad ones. I’m so looking forward to this weekend, though, at Le Mans.
“I think it’s going to be very cool to race on that track and I think the circuit is going to be very interesting and very challenging.”
Racing at Le Mans, has always been high on Bamber’s list of tracks to compete on and it’s one of the biggest races in the world. Bamber competed at the Daytona 24 Hour earlier this year and has definitely been bitten by the endurance-racing bug.
“It’s a real challenge and fun doing endurance racing. It’s going to be tough but I think it’s possible to do well. Qualifying of course will be important but I reckon you can win from sixth, seventh or even eighth on the grid. You’ll get massive drafting down the Mulsanne Straight and can make it up towards the lead. Each lap is so long [13.6km] there are a number of places you can make up time and places.
“The cars will be brilliant because they have low drag and can be really quick in a straight line. The brakes are amazing and the cornering’s pretty good as well. The Cup cars are going to surprise a few people with the laps times they’ll do,” said Bamber.
The deal came about on the back of his incredibly good form in the PCCA. Last weekend on his return to the championship, he won both races in the Japanese round to go back to the top of the points table.
“We’ve had a brilliant weekend in Fuji [Japan]. It didn’t start the best, but we finished exactly where we wanted. Now I can’t wait for Malaysia, my home race, in August,” said Bamber.
At Le Mans, Bamber will be contesting the support race (Porsche Carrera Cup France and UK rounds) for the 24 Hours in a Porsche China GT Cup Car.