Sunday, Oct 13 10:17pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Earl Bamber wins IMSA title with Laurens Vanthoor

Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor have claimed their first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship together with Porsche.

It was a one-two for the German marque with Nick Tander (Great Britain) and Patrick Pilet (France) claiming second in the GTLM standings. Porsche capped off the season with the Manufacturers’ Championship too.

The 21st edition of Petit Le Mans was one to savour for fans of sports car racing. It marked the end of the road for the factory-backed Ford GT program as well as the final race for the Corvette C7.R before the new C8.R debuts in 2020.

Porsche also said goodbye to their screaming first-generation Porsche 911 RSR, which will next year be replaced by an updated – and slightly less noisy – version also seen in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

While all eyes were on the big guns from Porsche, Chevrolet and Ford, factory-backed outfit Risi Competizione upstaged them all to win the 10-hour affair with their sole Ferrari 488 GTE.

In the end, it was James Calado (Great Britain), Alessandro Pier Guidi (Italy) and Daniel Serra (Brazil) who won by a mere seven seconds. Richard Westbrook (Great Britain), Ryan Briscoe (Australia) and New Zealand’s own Scott Dixon brought home second for Chip Ganassi Racing.

After a tough year with the BMW M8 GTE, the BMW Team RLL squad managed to make it onto the podium with expat-New Zealander Tom Blomqvist, Connor De Phillippi (USA) and Colton Herta (USA).

Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Mathieu Jaminet (France) looked like a chance for a podium until they were spun just minutes away from the checkered flag. At the checkered flag the Corvette Racing trio of Jan Magnussen (Denmark), Antonio Garcia (Spain) and Mike Rockenfeller (Germany) claimed fourth.

Fortunately, Bamber and Vanthoor just needed to claim seventh or better in the race to earl the GTLM title.

“We fought our hardest at the end of the race there for a podium and it didn’t quite come off,” Bamber said.

“So that was a tough day. We managed to do what we did all season and be right there and be in the points, make no mistakes all day long and score points.

“Tomorrow it’ll definitely sink in. I think it is definitely one of the toughest championships to win here. Everyone’s at the highest level and I’m super thrilled to take the championship home for Porsche.”

“I joined Porsche three years ago,” Vanthoor added. “I wanted to go to America. 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.”

In total, the pair claimed three wins at Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Mosport. Podium finishes were also forthcoming at Daytona, Lime Rock, Road America and Virginia International Raceway.

Bamber will now shift his attention to the final few races in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia as well as a tilt in the FIA World Games for Team Malaysia via his Earl Bamber Motorsport outfit.

He’ll have one more outing on-track too in the Kyalami 9 Hours in South Africa for Porsche.


CLICK HERE for Petit Le Mans results


CLICK HERE for Petit Le Mans class results