Kiwi racer Earl Bamber's Porsche plans + Cayenne review
Back in New Zealand for a fleeting visit after his Porsche Supercup victory, Kiwi Earl Bamber had an important mission - renewing his year-old passport.
The 24-year-old former Wanganui student has been based in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur for three years but it's been 2014 that has seen Bamber flying around the world to drive.
And those full pages of his passport, and the fact he's only spent six weekends in Malaysia this year, are testimony that not only is Bamber in demand but also he's had plenty of success.
"I started the year counting the countries I raced in - then I quickly gave up," said Bamber as he rode shotgun with Driven in an exclusive drive of the facelift Porsche Cayenne S 3.6 litre V6 bi-turbo petrol SUV.
Instead of counting the country stamps on his chokka passport, it's easier to count the affable Bamber's successes this season: he's contested the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, Porsche Carrera Cup France, Porsche Carrera Cup UK, raced in a support category at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and driven as a factory driver at the Petit Le Mans in a 911RSR.
But his biggest achievement has been winning the international Porsche Supercup championship.
In doing so he became the first New Zealander, and the first rookie, to take the title.
His victory of the Supercup wasn't a surprise to his competitors - even before the season started he was pegged to win it.
"At the start of the season, I was voted by the other drivers the person who was going to win the Supercup," said Bamber.
"Then I started with a win, then we started banging out podiums every week."
But it was during a two-month break before the final (and successful) Supercup race at Austin, Texas that had the potential to catapult Bamber to becoming one of our top racing car drivers.
He was asked to test for the Porsche factory team, and then race for them in the Atlanta endurance race.
And he made an important first impression.
"The Porsche team boss Hartmut Kristen asked me the morning of the race, 'What's wrong with you? You don't look nervous. You look like you're enjoying yourself'.
"I said, 'Racing cars - it's supposed to be enjoyable right? We're either going to win or not'."
Porsche came second with Bamber posting the fastest lap for the team.
But his success wasn't an automatic invitation to join the Porsche factory team full-time. Instead, after a fitness test in Germany, he's expecting to hear in the next few days if he's been successful.
By the time Driven went to press, Bamber still hadn't heard but he's expecting to know before Porsche's Night of Champions on Saturday.
Bamber's road to hopefully being signed up to the factory team, alongside fellow Kiwi Brendon Hartley and Australian Formula 1 legend Mark Webber, started in Asia.
After basing himself in Kuala Lumpur, Bamber tried to find a permanent drive but instead joined the Superleague Formula commentating team for two seasons, and worked as a driver trainer.
In 2013 he was asked to race in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia - but before he donned a helmet he came up with a three-year plan.
Step one was to try to finish in the top three in Carrera Cup Asia. (Bamber won it.)
Step two was to be selected for International Cup scholarship. (Tick.)
Step three was to win the International Cup scholarship. (Tick.)
Step four was to race in the Porsche Supercup series and finish in the top five. (Bamber won that, too.)
And step five is to be a factory driver.
"Those goals have been overachieved, but the last one is completely out of my hands," said Bamber.
Bamber began go-kart racing as a 7-year-old. But the move from go-karts to Toyota Racing Series' single seater to GP2, TRS, A1GP, Formula Masters, Superleague, Formula Renault, Euroseries and Formula V6 has also prepared him for racing in the endurance series.
"When you're 18 or 19, you can drive fast but you can't deal with everything around you. When you're a little bit older it's easier to deal with," he said.
"It takes maturity to drive it for 24 hours. It's not a sprint race."
And on the topic of 24 hours, that's about the time that Bamber had to try to get a new passport before he headed to Germany.
So Driven dropped him off at Porsche New Zealand headquarters to check up with supporter Giltrap Group and get ready for a new photo for the passport.