#BamThor looks for more glory as IMSA season resumes

June 27, 2019

#BamThor looks for more glory as IMSA season resumes

June 27, 2019

The friendship and eventual co-driver relationship between Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber began with a heart-in-mouth moment.

#BamThor. Photo: Michelin North America

When battling for the lead at the 2016 FIA GT World Cup in Macau, Bamber’s Porsche passed Vanthoor around the outside before a dive into a right-out kink. Exiting the corner, Vanthoor’s Audi hit the left side of the wall and promptly flipped over.

The race was stopped and scoring reverted back to an earlier lap, so despite sliding down the straight on his roof, Vanthoor was declared the winner.

Flash forward to 2017, and Vanthoor joined Porsche’s GT program, so the young Belgian joined the young Kiwi in the manufacturer’s factory lineup. However Vanthoor was racing in IMSA with a rotation of co-drivers, and Bamber was still racing Porsche’s hybrid LMP1 car in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Humble beginnings at 2018 ROAR…. Photo: Michelin North America

Things went a step further when Porsche placed the two drivers in its No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR for the full 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

In Bamber’s case, it marked a return to the hotbed of IMSA GT Le Mans class competition after a year away. For Vanthoor, it was a chance to race at the classic old school North American circuits for a second time and gelling with a similar-in-age co-driver.

“I first raced against him in Macau a couple years ago,” Vanthoor said in 2018 (within Porsche special print issue of Michelin Racing USA). “Then in Atlanta (as third driver) he first jumped in the car. He’d been driving prototypes, but in this car, he was on the pace from Lap 2.

“I find Laurens is a fierce competitor. I’m glad he’s not in the car against me!” Bamber added.

… but quickly winners in IMSA’s stacked GTLM class. Photo: Michelin North America

Great co-driver pairings often take a bit of time to blossom into winners, but Vanthoor and Bamber did so in just their fourth start together in 2018 at Mid-Ohio. That came after a near-miss when contending for the win at Long Beach. The groundwork was laid for future success in 2019 as they would continue together this year. A runner-up finish at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca marked their next best result.

This trio headed to Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI. Bamber had grown some scruff by this point. Photo: Michelin North America

All the while, the two developed a friendship and a consistent banter on social media which has grown into the “BamThor” moniker, created by fans, and picked up by both drivers.

That takes the first bit of Bamber’s last time and plays on words of Vanthoor’s last name, as Vanthoor has often joked his new American name is “Larry Van Thor” with a corresponding hammer.

The comedic act took its show on the road to last year’s Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI where one of the activities was a “newlywed” question-and-answer game. Bamber joked Vanthoor’s wife might be jealous of all the time they spend together.

But even when they are apart, they still support each other.

Case in point: they’d finished a hard-luck third in the waterlogged Rolex 24 At Daytona in a race when they had the measure of the field in the dry. A week later, Porsche entrusted Bamber’s new Earl Bamber Motorsport team to run two works-supported 911 GT3 Rs at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. Bamber served as team principal and Vanthoor was with his family fully watching and supporting from home.

A dramatic late-race pass by Matt Campbell netted one of Bamber’s Porsches the win at Mount Panorama. That helped set the tone for more success to come in the early part of the 2019 season.

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor

The IMSA GTLM class has been on a break since Mid-Ohio the first weekend in May, but the “BamThor” success has been rolling over the last few months.

Bamber and Vanthoor won on the streets of Long Beach and followed that up with their second straight win at Mid-Ohio. They lead the championship standings by seven points heading into the busiest stretch of the IMSA season, with five GTLM races in the next nine weekends.

Ever the gentleman, Bamber thanked Vanthoor for his drive to put the No. 912 car in position to win Mid-Ohio.

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor

“It was sort of set up by Laurens’ stint; he’d managed to go long,” Bamber explained. “We made a good target compared to the other competitors so it helped us here. Obviously, we could take less fuel and go longer on the overcut of the (No.) 3 (Corvette). That was pretty awesome strategy by everyone on the team.

“We’re all feeling good so now we’re going to roll on. Everyone’s going to be hunting us, so we have to get a good drive at Watkins Glen. You know, keep hitting our marks and trying to do complete races. I think that’s the key.”


The interlude between IMSA races comes with a pair of 24-hour races, first at Le Mans and Nurburgring.

For the second consecutive year, the “BamThor” pairing got split up at Le Mans. The separation anxiety was real.

Vanthoor (center) with Christensen and Estre in 2018. Photo: Michelin North America

Last year, it was Vanthoor’s turn to enjoy the spoils of a Le Mans victory co-driving with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre. This year, exhaust issues halted their charge.

Porsche GT Team (93), Pascal Zurlinden (Gesamtprojektleiter GT Werksmotorsport), Patrick Pilet (F), Earl Bamber (NZ), Nick Tandy (GB) (l-r). Photo: Porsche

Bamber returned to a Le Mans podium, sharing the No. 93 Porsche 911 RSR with the second full-season IMSA pairing of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. That revealed a massive year-on-year improvement at Le Mans by the CORE autosport team that runs and operates Porsche GT Team’s factory North American effort.

At the Nurburging this past weekend, Bamber joined the Le Mans trio of Vanthoor, Christensen and Estre in the No. 911 “Grello” Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Unfortunately, tough luck hit this group yet again. A five-minute plus penalty assessed for speeding under yellow flag conditions demoted this car from a sure-looking win to second place.


At Watkins Glen though this weekend, with #BamThor fully established on social media within the Porsche fan and sports car spaces, the meme has ascended to the next level: it’s made it to a T-shirt.

Vanthoor revealed that bit during his latest Sportscar365 column, written before Le Mans, with the T-shirt featuring the #BamThor hashtag premiering at Watkins Glen. Wisconsin apparel company Styled Aesthetic produces the shirt and will sell it starting this weekend.

Photo: Michelin North America

Now available for fans, the #BamThor shirt brings the “bromance” to full reality beyond a hashtag on social media.

Not bad for a pair of young drivers in only their second year together as co-drivers.

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