Le Mans pair share backstory

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 22 Jul 2017

The fascinating thing about motor racing is often the inspiring stories drivers have, not only about the race they may have just won but about what led them to that success.

Kiwis Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber cemented themselves in New Zealand motor racing folklore with their fairy-tale comeback win in the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours last month.

At one point they were 19 laps off the lead and in second-to-last place but went on with their German team-mate Timo Bernhard to win the famous race by a lap. Proving it was no fluke, the two-thirds New Zealand team took their second win of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season at the Nurburgring last weekend.

It prompted the World Endurance Championship to produce a video of Hartley and Bamber talking about their childhood growing up as mates, through to sharing the top step of the podium at Le Mans. The trip down memory lane features the pair cycling around a circuit - on Porsche bikes, of course - reminiscing about meeting when Hartley was 7 and Bamber was 6.

They were both racing karts - cue some cute photos of the pint-sized racers. Hartley recalls that Bamber's dad would bribe him with pies and sweets to teach his son the tricks of the karting track.

A self- confessed city boy, he relished the summers where he was dropped off at Bamber's farm and they first got the hang of driving cars on private roads.

Bamber produces an interesting stat that it was in 1998, the year they began karting, that Porsche had last won at Le Mans. Who would have been able to predict that Bamber would be in the Porsche team that finally reclaimed the Le Mans crown in 2015 and that the boyhood friends would share the win two years later?

The YouTube clip then documents how the pair's career paths diverged for about 10 years as Hartley headed to Europe and Bamber raced in Asia.

They met up again when, Hartley says, someone thought it was a smart idea to put a kid from the Carrera Cup into an LMP1 Porsche. He and Bernhard, who had raced with Bamber in Carrera Cup Germany, ‘‘pushed 100%'' to get Bamber in the car.

The rest, as they say, is history. Search for Bamber and Hartley on YouTube and you will find this fantastic video, which is entitled 20 Years Later.

Locally, we have the annual Catlins Coast Rally coming up on August 12. Publicity officer Lindsay Beer has been doing a great job over the past few weeks promoting some interesting stories behind some of the entered drivers. We will feature some of these stories in next week's Drivesouth.

Catherine Pattison