Puzzle pieces continue to fall into place for this year’s Repco Bathurst 1000; the latest being confirmation that Earl Bamber will be partnering Andre Heimgartner at Kelly Grove Racing.
The all-Kiwi line-up is set to be a formidable one, given the past speed shown by both drivers at Mount Panorama.
Bamber was very impressive during his debut Supercars Pirtek Enduro Cup campaign with Shane van Gisbergen in 2018. Often among the quickest co-drivers across the respective weekends at Sandown, Bathurst, and the Gold Coast, it was a season of ‘what if’ results for Bamber.
He and van Gisbergen claimed second at the Sandown 500, only to finish fifth at the Bathurst 1000 a month later — having been quick all through the build-up and qualifying.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the guys at Kelly Grove Racing for this year’s Bathurst 1000. For me success at Mount Panorama in the 1000 is one of the items on my racing bucket list and to do it with André who’s a fellow Kiwi would be fantastic,” said Bamber.
“When I raced at the Bathurst 1000 in 2018 the atmosphere was incredible, the race means so much to the fans and the teams and it’s the one race that every single driver wants to win. It’s one of the coolest and most competitive endurance events that I’ve raced in.
“I’m really looking forward to working with André, he’s a young guy who is starting to cement his place as a competitive force in the Championship with really solid and consistent results. The team are all really pushing hard with the car development at the moment too and the results of that are starting to show so it’s definitely an exciting time for Kelly Grove Racing and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”
Bamber’s ties to Australasia have strengthened in the recent past. The Kiwi’s new Team Porsche New Zealand squad —consisting of Matthew Payne, Callum Hedge, and Madeline Stewart — is coming off productive opening rounds in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia and Porsche Sprint Challenge series’.
Since his last co-driver stint, Bamber has also become a Bathurst winner of sorts. His team claimed a stunning Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour victory in 2019, with Matt Campbell, Dennis Olson, and Dirk Werner sharing driving duties and silverware.
For Heimgartner, the announcement represents his best shot at a strong result at the mountain; Bamber arguably representing his most high-profile co-driver at Bathurst to date.
“It’s really awesome to have Earl join the team for this year’s Bathurst 1000 and to have another Kiwi in the team. Earl is someone that I’ve obviously paid close attention to over the years being from New Zealand and he’s had a huge amount of success in racing internationally,” he said.
“Things like winning the 24 hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship are two of the biggest accolades you can have shy of winning a F1 World Championship so his resume is certainly very impressive.
“Earl has raced in Supercars before, but it has been a few years and with a different car so there might be some acclimatisation required for him to get comfortable, but I have no doubt he’ll be very competitive and give NED Whisky Racing the best chance of success.”
Heimgartner’s mountain history features an interesting factoid, in that he has had a different co-driver at the event every year since 2015, apart from Aaren Russell’s appearances in 2016 and 2018. Ant Pedersen, Tim Slade, Bryce Fullwood, and Dylan O’Keefe have all shared the wheel with the 25-year-old Aucklander.
The Bathurst 1000 takes place on October 7–10, and will be the only event featuring co-drivers. The category is currently gearing up for round three of the season, to be held at Symmons Plains Raceway, Tasmania.