BATHURST’s racing history is filled with stories of privateer teams punching well above their weight amongst the might of factory teams – and the 2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race will be no exception.
This year, a privateer Porsche team entered in Class B (GT3) has assembled a remarkably strong pair of pro drivers that they hope will push them not only to class victory – put potentially ahead of some of the outright cars, too.
‘Elite’ division Carrera Cup racer Stephen Grove will be joined by New Zealand sensation Earl Bamber and British ace Ben Barker in a driving attack that features some of the best young Porsche talent in the world.
Grove Racing has entered their Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Car, fresh from a season in Carrera Cup Australia that saw owner / driver Stephen Grove finish fourth in his class and 11th overall in the competitive one-make championship.
The Grove Racing outfit finished second in Class B last year and are keen to go one step further in 2014.
“We’ve got the young guys on board this year and that is what we wanted. There were a lot of them in the 12-hour last year and they are really hungry to succeed – that’s what we want,” Stephen Grove said.
“Earl and Ben are great in Porsche’s and have lots of experience so we want to go there and punch above our weight.”
Grove – who raced in both the Porsche Carrera Cup and GT3 Cup Challenge series last year – says the 12-hour race is his favourite event on the calendar.
“Last year’s race was the best I have ever competed in; I really like the strategy, the driver changes, managing fuel and your 10 sets of tyres across the weekend, it makes for super day. I love the long-distance stuff and want to do more of it.
“We don’t have any illusions that it will be easy in Class B, let alone the outright field,” Grove added.
“Our class is super competitive and there are some incredible drivers involved so it’s going to be tough. The Porsche is a very reliable car so it comes down to strategy and managing the traffic.
“It will come down to the last hour and having the right guy in the car for the push to the flag.”
Barker said he was looking forward to joining the Grove team this February.
“It’s going to be fantastic to be teaming up with Stephen and Earl for such a brilliant event,” Ben Barker said.
“Stephen has put together a great team and not only are they very professional but very competitive, too. I think the three of us will make a great driving combination. After tackling the Mountain in V8 Supercar and Carrera Cup sprint races, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a long distance race there.
“I think that it if it all goes to plan we might end up getting a very strong result!”
Bamber and Barker bring a wealth of Porsche experience to the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour this year.
Bamber won the 2013 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title, defeating the highly-rated Martin Ragginger in the process. He also contested a limited Porsche Supercup campaign – the top flight of one-make Porsche racing globally – scoring a pole position in the final round at Abu Dhabi.
Bamber subsequently won a Porsche scholarship that will see him compete in the full 2014 Porsche Supercup championship.
The Kiwi spent last weekend in Florida, testing a Porsche ahead of the famous Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race later this month.
Barker is also well known to Australian fans, having won the 2010 Australian F3 / Gold Star championship, before winning the rookie of the year prize in Carrera Cup Australia the following season. Following a strong season in Porsche Carrera Cup GB in 2012, Barker contested a full Porsche Supercup campaign last year, finishing 10th overall.
Porsches entered in the 12-hour’s second GT class have a habit of punching well above their weight and mixing it with the faster, GT3 outright cars in the final 12-hour standings every year.
In 2011 a Class B Porsche driven by Roger Lago, David Russell and Matt Kingsley finished fifth overall before Nathan Tinkler combined with V8 Supercar aces Stevens Johnson and Richards to score fourth in 2012, finishing behind only the winning Phoenix Racing Audi, the Erebus / Black Falcon Mercedes and the Clearwater Racing Ferrari.
The Hunter team then finished 9th amongst a much stronger outright GT field last year, proving big results can still come for lower-class cars if reliability and performance remain consistent throughout the day.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will be held across the February 7-9 weekend at Mount Panorama, Bathurst.