- First-Timer Farewell. Bamber’s New Team Earns Porsche 911 GT3 R Farewell Win at Bathurst.
- Wright Plans. World Challenge GT Champions Return to GT Series in 2019.
- Porsche Legend. Walter Röhrl Inducted Into FIA Hall of Fame
Event Story Lines.
First-Timer Farewell. Bamber’s New Team Earns Porsche 911 GT3 R Farewell Win at Bathurst.
It was a half-a-day of firsts and lasts for Porsche Motorsport at the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia. The opening round of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) saw Porsche adds its name, for the first time, to the list of overall winners at the Mount Panorama Circuit. Earl Bamber Motorsport (EBM), the GT Team fielded by Porsche factory driver Earl Bamber, earned its first victory in Australia’s premier GT race. The race win officially closed the door on the Type 991.1 Porsche 911 GT3 R entry, with the next 911 customer racer debuting a week earlier at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Works driver Dirk Werner (Germany) as well as two Porsche Young Professionals Matt Campbell (Australia) and Dennis Olsen (Norway) brought the EBM GT3 car over the start-finish line in first-place. The untried customer team, managed by Porsche works driver Bamber (New Zealand), triumphed at its maiden outing, on an international stage, in the 12-hour contest against experienced teams from eight other manufacturers.
In a breathtaking closing act, local hero Campbell ultimately beat his top-league rivals with a drive befitting his new role as a Porsche Young Professional. In the final 20-minutes of the race that started before dawn, Campbell passed three vehicles, one after the other with perfectly executed maneuvers and swept into the lead with the No. 912 Porsche 911 GT3 R. His teammates, Werner and Olsen, drove strong stints and his EBM team worked flawlessly with a perfect strategy to lay the foundation for this victory.
Lady Luck, however, was not shining on their team colleagues Romain Dumas (France), Sven Müller (Germany) and Mathieu Jaminet (France). From the race’s midpoint, the driver trio in the Porsche 911 GT3 R swapped the lead with the sister vehicle over long stretches, however the No. 911 car did not see the finish. With three hours remaining, a power steering issue hampered the charge and led to its retirement.
North American-based Black Swan Racing was forced to withdraw from the event following a practice session accident at the corner known as “The Chase”. The No. 540 Porsche 911 GT3 R – which is scheduled to race in the full IGTC season as well as the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships Michelin Endurance Cup – suffered heavy damage and was beyond repair. Driver/Team principal Tim Pappas (Boston, Massachusetts) had no choice but to retire the race car he was to share with Jeroen Bleekemolen (The Netherlands) and Marc Lieb (Germany).
For the opening round of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge season, the 2018-spec version of the 500 hp GT3 car was campaigned for the final time, as stipulated by the rules. Beginning with the second race of the IGTC season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Monterey, California), customer teams will race the new version of the vehicle, which celebrated its race debut in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 26 – 27. The new Porsche 911 GT3 R features numerous improvements in terms of drivability, aerodynamics, safety and kinematics.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport, Porsche.
“What a banner day for Porsche Motorsport. Congratulations to all drivers and particularly to the team principal, Earl Bamber, who has impressed me greatly with his fortitude and meticulousness over the years. Earl is not only a world-class racing driver, he’s also a top team boss. He underlined this today. It’s perfect that the fledgling EMB team has handed us the first victory at Bathurst at the swan song of the Porsche 911 GT3 R after three very successful years. Now we are looking forward to the second race of the season at Laguna Seca. We aim to bring home the next win with the new car.”
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport, Porsche.
“We still had some unfinished business at Bathurst, and now it’s settled. For our proven Porsche 911 GT3 R to win at its last major race, we couldn’t have dreamed for a more wonderful finish. I take my hat off to our drivers, who had to fight in sweltering heat. And we mustn’t forget the customer team Earl Bamber Motorsport. This was the first race at this level for EBM, they tackled it with a top-class, experienced crew and promptly won. This could be the first chapter of an epic story. We look forward to further joint outings. Now we’re looking ahead and preparing ourselves for the next two big events for Porsche Motorsport: the doubleheader in Sebring with the WEC and IMSA and the next round of the IGTC in Laguna Seca.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager 911 GT3 R, Porsche.
“This finale was breathtaking. We focused our entire race strategy on this last stint. The team prepared for it perfectly, and the drivers implemented it perfectly. At the end we fitted fresh tires, filled the tank and put Matt Campbell in the car – then full attack to the finish line. This victory at the last big race is a fair reward for the very successful Porsche 911 GT3 R. Such a farewell before the car heads into the Museum rounds off the success story perfectly. The EBM team did a sensational job as well. The squad was put together on short notice with unflagging commitment and great meticulousness. The fact that they promptly scored a victory is phenomenal and a consequence of the professional work.”
Daniel Armbruster, President and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America.
“Every once in a while we are reminded that motor racing is still an inherently dangerous sport. Tim Pappas’ accident could have been much worse, considering his speed and track location. Fortunately, the 911 GT3 R performed just as our engineers in Weissach designed it. Of course, we would prefer if our race cars were not tested this way, and we are thankful Tim’s injuries are not more serious.”
Earl Bamber, Team Principal, EBM.
“We only began putting the team together at the beginning of December. Since then we’ve invested a huge amount of work into this project – not just me, but my brother Will and many other supporters, as well. Our goal was to be able to offer the drivers two equal cars at the very highest level. We succeeded. The No. 911 led over long stretches but then fell back. But we had a second iron in the fire. The No. 912 stepped up to the mark. What Matt achieved in his last stint is film worthy. The fact that we now send this car into the Museum with a victory makes it all the more emotional. I’m completely over the moon.”
Matt Campbell, Driver, No. 912 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I knew without doubt in the finale where the strengths of our car lay – and I then used them. I eyed up my competitors, I made my overtaking moves and never backed off. That was an important key to this victory and I’m overjoyed. Bathurst is a legendary race, and it’s my home race. It was the first GT3 race for Earl Bamber’s team. To win at the first outing and in this manner is simply brilliant.”
Dirk Werner, Driver, No. 912 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“This is a great victory. I’ve waited a long time for such a success at a major race. There are so many special stories from this race. It was the maiden GT3 race for Earl’s team, it was the last race for the Porsche 911 GT3 R and not least there was Matt Campbell’s performance, he really turned up the heat at the end. It was an incredible achievement from everyone involved. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Dennis Olsen, Driver, No. 912 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Incredible! That one word actually sums it all up. We all worked hard for this win. Ultimately, it was about Matt’s performance in the final stint. How he fought for the lead was nothing less than amazing. I still can’t quite put my feelings into words. I guess it first has to all sink in.”
Romain Dumas, Driver, No. 911 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“We were fast, constant and strategically well positioned with our Porsche 911 GT3 R. I drove a double stint early this morning with one set of tires. That would have given us the benefit of fresh tires at the end. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reap the rewards of the entire team’s hard work. The fact that something breaks at such a grueling long distance race is simply part of racing. You can’t do anything about that.”
Sven Müller, Driver, No. 911 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“The Bathurst track is awesome. It’s a little like the Nürburgring-Nordschleife – I like it. I had some exciting, tough duels during my stint and it was great fun. At times we were in the lead. Unfortunately, we got the news that the power steering had a defect. And unfortunately we were out. Congratulations to our colleagues in the No. 912 car.”
Mathieu Jaminet, Driver, No. 911 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“We started into the race from twelfth on the grid and ploughed our way up the field. We kept out of trouble and drove our laps flawlessly. That earned us the lead. Unfortunately, about three hours before the flag, the power steering went. Luckily I managed to keep the car on the track. It’s too bad that we were thrown out of contention. But we’ll tick this off and look ahead.”
Tim Pappas, Driver/Team Principal, No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Of course it’s a difficult way to end the weekend. After last year’s victory we came in very confident on the weekend, but ultimately I’m fortunate that the accident wasn’t worse than it was. Thanks to all the guys as well as Porsche Motorsport for putting together a safe car, the injuries could have been more severe. We’ll regroup and see what the next steps are.”
Wright Plans. World Challenge GT Champions Return to GT Series in 2019.
Wright Motorsports will return to Blancpain GT World Challenge America (formally the Pirelli World Challenge, or PWC) competition in 2019 with two new Porsche 911 GT3 R entries. Sharing the seat of the No. 58 PRO-class Porsche will be Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and Scott Hargrove (Canada). Anthony Imperato (Brooklyn, New York) will lead the PRO/AM-class No. 91 Henry Repeating Arms entry alongside Matt Campbell (Australia) and Romain Dumas (France), with a driver sequence to be announced at a later date.
No stranger to the John Wright-led program and Porsche fans alike, Long will be entering his fourth consecutive season with the championship-winning team. This marks the Porsche factory driver’s return to SRO America competition for the first time since claiming the 2017 Overall, Sprint and Team championships while helping Porsche earn the Manufacturer’s title . With a wealth of knowledge and experience, the Californian looks to pick up right where he left off in his sixteenth year as a Porsche “works” driver.
Hailing from British Columbia, Hargrove joins Wright Motorsports as the reigning Blancpain GT World Challenge America champion and first rookie to claim the honor. The 23-year-old has quickly worked his way up the Porsche Young Driver pyramid by earning two additional championships in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama series, and over thirty victories with the marque. Having recently been slotted as the 2019 Porsche Selected Driver, Hargrove has every intention of capitalizing on that success teamed with Long.
Stepping up to his first full season of GT3 competition, Imperato has three seasons of driving Wright Motorsports-prepared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. The New Yorker has spent the last year getting to know the Porsche 911 GT3 R, having run the previous model in two SRO America events. With four podiums in the four 2018 races he contested, Imperato looks to keep the momentum rolling, alternating with Porsche “works” aces Dumas and Campbell.
The first of seven newly renamed, Blancpain GT World Challenge America events will kick off March 2-3 with two, 90-minute races at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Continuity in motorsport is something a driver can only hope for. I am honored to add a fourth chapter to my story with Wright Motorsports and to be back with a team that has the talent and focus to win. GT3 racing in today’s landscape is ultra-close and that requires you to squeeze every hundredth of a second out of yourself. It tests your communication and trust as a group, so that’s where I find comfort in building on what we’ve worked on together for the last three seasons."
"Scott will make a great addition to the effort. He’s a proven winner in all categories he's been in, and has been very exciting to watch. It will also be fun to rejoin SRO America and see how it's evolved after a season away. The way you attack these races is very unique, so getting back into that groove will be priority for me personally.”
Scott Hargrove, Driver, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Joining Wright Motorsports in 2019 is an unexpected, but very exciting development. I’ve been a fan of Patrick Long for a long time and watched him race growing up. It’s an honor for me to now be teammates with him and to join Wright Motorsports, with all of the experience they have. They’ve proven time and time again that they’re a team to beat and I have no doubt that we’re going to be a strong package. Like Patrick, I was fortunate to have gotten a taste of the new Porsche 911 GT3 R this month [in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona]. The car feels phenomenal and I’m eager to develop on what is already a very strong platform."
Anthony Imperato, Driver, No. 91 Henry Repeating Arms Porsche 911 GT3 R.
"I’m really looking forward to another season with Wright Motorsports and my first full season in the Blancpain GT World Challenge America. Teaming up with Romain and Matt will be a great learning experience for me. We've already had a few very productive days of testing and the new Porsche 911 GT3 R is a lot of fun to drive. I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and can’t wait to get the season started.”
Porsche Legend. Walter Röhrl Inducted Into FIA Hall of Fame.
On January 30, German racing legend Walter Röhrl was named the first rally driver and non-Formula 1 world champion to be inducted into the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Motorsport Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place at the FIA headquarters in Paris.
Born in Regensburg, Bavaria, Röhrl (71) began his rally career in 1968, driving private vehicles. He became a factory driver in 1972, and immediately established himself among the world’s elite drivers. Röhrl won the Monte Carlo Rally four times, driving four different marques, and was World Rally Champion twice. He drove a Porsche 924 in the 1981 German Rally Championship, and he also drove a Porsche 911 in the World Championship race in San Remo that year.
Röhrl won his class at the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans co-driving a Porsche 944 LM with Jürgen Barth. As the 1980s continued, the German became more closely tied to Porsche leading to his role in assisting with the development of Porsche sports cars, starting with the Porsche 911 (type 964) Carrera 4 all-wheel drive.
Highlights of Röhrl’s involvement with development and fine-tuning include the Porsche 959, Carrera GT and 918 Spyder super cars. In addition, Röhrl has been active around the world as a Porsche brand ambassador since 1993.