Porsche’s ‘BamThor’ pair powers to GTLM crown

October 22, 2019

Porsche’s ‘BamThor’ pair powers to GTLM crown

October 22, 2019

All good things come to an end, and in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class, that was a Corvette Racing driver pairing winning the driver championship after three straight years.

The pendulum in the back-and-forth American brands vs. German brands battle that has defined the category the last decade or so went back to the Germans this year.

Porsche looked every bit the champions from the moment it revealed its new historic livery, commemorating Brumos Racing, on the pair of its 911 RSRs. The only real question was whether the longtime pairing of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, or the younger upstart social media savvy pair of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, would lead the charge.

Ultimately it ended with “BamThor” claiming this year’s driver championship. But for most of the year, that question proved difficult to answer.

Tandy, Pilet and Fred Makowiecki recovered from a tough start when their Porsche came alive in cooler conditions at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring to repeat their 2018 win in that race.

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor, #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GTLM: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, #4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GTLM: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner

In IMSA’s first two sprint races of the year, first the 100-minute dash at Long Beach and then the first standard length two-hour, 40-minute race at Mid-Ohio, Bamber and Vanthoor rose to the front. Both had elements of strategy see them place the No. 912 car out front.

The “BamThor” banter between the two developed on social media, so much so that when they arrived at Watkins Glen their inside joke had become a T-shirt. Yet it was Tandy and Pilet that snatched the win away from their teammates there in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Bamber and Vanthoor responded with Porsche’s fifth consecutive win a week later at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. That set a record within IMSA’s GTLM class.

The win streak ended at Lime Rock Park but Bamber and Vanthoor edged ahead through that race and Road America, before Tandy and Pilet regained momentum with a win in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway. That win also secured Porsche the manufacturer’s championship, provided at least one car started each of the last two races.

Despite a tougher end to the season, Bamber and Vanthoor held enough of a points lead going into the season finale, and secured the title.

“Porsche had a great season winning six races and a manufacturer’s title,” Bamber reflected at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

“Laurens and myself, we had a goal to win the championship over here. We tried to do it last year, but to do it in the second year in the driver pairing is something really, really special.

“Corvette set the bar high with three in a row. We’ve got one, so we just need two more times in a row. So that’s a good goal for next year. When we’re on a bad day, we’re really close to coach each other. That’s endurance racing.”

Braselton: 2019 Petit Le Mans on October, 13, 2019, (Photo by Hoch Zwei). Photo courtesy Porsche North America

Vanthoor, who’s newer to the U.S. scene than Bamber, noted his journey towards becoming an IMSA champion.

“For me personally as well, I joined Porsche three years ago. I wanted to go to America,” the Belgian driver said. “It was kind of a dream to race here at one point and race for Porsche.

“When I came here I basically didn’t know anything. I didn’t know the teams, the tracks, the rules, not the car, nothing. For me to come away now with the championship in the books is something I’ll be really proud of. It’s a really cool achievement. And together with my mentor buddy, Earl. It’s quite a dream come true.”

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Thursday October 22, 2020