Multi-talented Earl Bamber highlights trend from racing's roots
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Kiwi driver Earl Bamber's cameo in Supercars next year is the latest example of elite level racing drivers swapping from one major category to another within a season.
That used to be the norm in the 1960s and 70s but as the major championships became big business specialization was forced onto drivers.
But over the last 12 months we have seen Kiwi Brendon Hartley successfully contest Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship simultaneously. McLaren driver Fernando Alonso took a hiatus from Formula 1 earlier in the year to have a crack at the Indianapolis 500 while another Kiwi Richie Stanaway successfully made the switch from single seaters and sports cars to Supercars.
"I think it just shows that at the moment in motor racing people are looking around at different disciplines to take different drivers from," Bamber told The Herald having returned to New Zealand for Christmas after a break-through season in which he won both the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hour race with the factory Porsche team.
"Brendon is one example from sports cars to Formula 1 but then Fernando went from Formula 1 to Indycars and did a mega job. Richie went from sports cars to Supercars and did a terrific job too.
"There are a lot of people moving around at the moment and I think it is quite cool for the sport and cool for the fans.
"It hasn't been happening for a while but now the manufacturers and sponsors are allowing it to happen and it is good from a marketing point of view."
Bamber will race alongside fellow Kiwi and 2016 Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen at Red Bull Holden Racing in the Pirtek Endurance Cup next year.
"It has been on the radar for a few years to do it but the calendar has never aligned with what I have been doing with Porsche," Bamber explained.
"This year was the first ever year where it looked possible. Then the day both calendars came out and were confirmed I text Shane and asked him if he was keen to do it together and he said he was keen so then he mentioned it to his boss Roland [Dane] and then we managed to put the deal together.
"I'm super happy to be joining him. They are big shoes to be filling because it should a championship contending car.
"I have a lot of things to learn and it will be a big challenge but one I am looking forward to."
Like Stanaway, Bamber wasn't prepared to just accept any old offer to drive in Supercars. It was important for him to get a spot in a competitive car so that he had a chance of winning.
His long-time relationship with van Gisbergen, that goes back to the pair's kart racing days, helped pave the way for a serious crack at winning the biggest races in Australasia.
"I wasn't going there and just fill up the numbers. It was a big goal to go to the Bathurst 1000 and compete there but you want to do the race in the right conditions," the 27-year-old said. "It doesn't matter how talented you are as a race driver you also need the right equipment under you.
"They are one of the big teams at the front, they have more resources, you learn off the good drivers – I am looking forward to learning a lot from Shane.
"It just makes it easier to learn."
Bamber has no plans to follow in Stanaway's foot and use a co-driving stint as a springboard to a fulltime move to the series.
- NZ Herald
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