The Day Oneshift Chased LMP1 Champion Earl Bamber Around Sepang - Porsche Media Driving Academy 2017

The Day Oneshift Chased LMP1 Champion Earl Bamber Around Sepang - Porsche Media Driving Academy 2017

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
31 Jul 2017

Porsche Asia Pacific held their Porsche Media Driving Academy 2017 at Sepang International Circuit on 6 July. Gracing the event was none other than Le Mans and Carrera Cup winner Earl Bamber, a humble farm boy who was there to ‘whip’ us into track-driving shape.

There are three levels of difficulty, depending on the journalist’s skill sets, or familiarity with Porsches, ranging from “Individual”, “Professional” and “Elite”. Oneshift had the opportunity to join Earl and other experienced instructors from Porsche on the circuit, to milk the best out of the various Porsche models available.

Those who complete the course would progress on to the next level, during the next session, cumulating to Elite. Elite graduates are granted priority during special events and launches.

Journalists got to learn about the various technologies which Porsche had deployed into their vehicles like the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an active anti-roll system, which works together with the real-axle steering, helping to manage lateral movement; and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), which enhances cornering stability in the car by applying moderate brake pressure on the inner rear wheel when taking a corner. At the same time, more power is added to the outer rear wheel, to allow for a tighter turn, by creating additional yaw movement towards the direction of the turn.

Lessons on braking with directional changes, a slalom course, the basics of handling and keeping to turning lines on the track, were part of the process of shaking off some of that rustiness, or just getting our techniques right, and finally taking the cars for a few laps around the Sepang circuit.

Slalom Course

On contrary to what many would do when doing the slalom, our instructor mentioned that it really is not so much about speed to the technique, but rather, keeping things smooth, and in-turn keeping our car balanced. A series of smooth turns, and throttle regulating we learnt, kept our car, a 718 Boxster with as minimal tilt as possible, keeping the balance at its most optimal for directional changes.

Braking

Straight-line braking would have been easy in a perfect world. With technological advancements in Antilock Braking (ABS) Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). In Porsche’s case, the additions of their Porsche Stability Management (PSM) which maintains stability, by constantly monitoring any movements or tilt in the car, ensuring that you would not deviate out of your turning line.

In the 718, we did just that, with a straight to take off on, and a braking area with a sharp turn included. There, we banged hard on the throttle, launched the mid-engined lightweight toward the braking area, slammed onto the brakes, and proceeded with a sharp right and then left, while still hard on the brakes.

Well… that, after a few tries, as most of us may have experienced losing control in such a situation, but we soon allowed ourselves to trust the car to do its job.


A shortened section of the Sepang circuit, and with our instructors showing the ropes. We got it easy, with markers placed at strategic locations along the track to remind us about when to brake and where our apex is.

Handling

In order to achieve a better time around the track, we were taught to brake late… very late, and also to take our turn a little later, to allow ourselves the best line.

Porsche also used three different car types for this, allowing drivers to understand the handling characteristics of each car. A mid-engined 911 Carrera S4, front-engined Panamera 4S, and a Cayenne Turbo S SUV.

Elk Test

We saw no moose… Cars are subjected to this test to see how they’d behave during a scenario, where they have to suddenly avoid an object, animal or pedestrian on the road. In a 911 Carrera S4, journalists were made to take off at full throttle, release upon reaching the obstacle, and steer away, and stick the car back on course.


Our car, a 911 Carrera 4S, was a 420hp machine, with 500N of twist, and able to hit 100 in just 3.8 seconds, and with a 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung gearbox (PDK) (now say ‘Doppelkupplung’ 3 times while taking turn 2 on Sepang Circuit…)

The Biggest Reward… Lapping!

Just 3 laps… and we were to trail LMP1 champion Earl Bamber! “Stay Calm” I told myself, while recalling everything in the book we learnt during the day. We were the first car in a group of 3 to follow him, yeah lucky us.

Very quickly, we could see what makes Earl a champ. The Kiwi calmly reminding us when to brake at each bend, and where on the track to place the car over the radio.

Just before the first turn the reminder comes up on the radio to brake, and you see the tail lights flicking on, on the car in-front of us, I keep the throttle on for that split second longer, before banging hard on the brakes, ABS pulsing through the brake pedal, and the rear of the car developing a slight wiggle. Bamber’s car appearing larger and larger in our windshield, then it turns, and we follow close, very close.

Setting up for the second turn, and tapping the brakes to right the car a little, the Kiwi easily gains more ground, as we try to catch up with him. All this… while Bamber’s calm and relaxed voice crackles over the radio about the next bend and the next.

By turn 13, a large right, which tightens uphill into turn 14, a sudden drop is felt, the kind you get suddenly from a roller coaster… Bamber gains more ground… while calmly instructing us about the next bend.

But in reality, Earl does slow down for us to catch up with him along the straights. After all, the Porsche Media Academy is designed for us to learn about how to drive fast, but doing it the right way.


A little treat for all the journalists, we were individually paired with an instructor and brought for a few laps.

Hot Laps

Giving us a better idea of how balanced the 911 can be around the bends . And as the saying goes, the slower it feels the faster you are!

By the luck of a draw, some lucky journalists got to take a few laps with Bamber at the wheel of a Cayman MR GT4.


Born in 1990, the New Zealander grew up on a farm, where at a very young age, he learnt how to drive on his property.

About Earl Bamber

Professionally beginning with kart racing, Bamber progressed to open-wheel racing with various manufacturers.

By 2013, Bamber signed on with Porsche, beginning with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. At the same time, Bamber was also making his mark at the gruelling Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race, nailing first place in 2014 and 2016.

More recently, Bamber and his team, with Porsche and their 919 Hybrid, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, even coming back from some setbacks… when I say some, it was actually a major setback they faced.

Thank you Porsche and thank you Earl, it was a privilege and an honour!

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