Bamber takes clean sweep at Hamilton 400

Monday 21 April 2008, 9:19AM
By Toyota Racing Series


Earl Bamber has scored a clean sweep of the Toyota Racing Series events at the Hamilton 400.

Bamber, 17, was fastest in testing, took pole in dominant form in the two qualifying sessions and won both races. It was his first clean sweep of the 2008 season and included a new race lap record of 1:23.4252 that also becomes the fastest lap on the new Hamilton 400 street circuit.

His form underscores the young Wanganui driver's sheer talent and marks him as a name to watch in future years.

Behind Bamber at the finish was Cambridge driver Nic Jordan, who equalled his best finish in the 2008 series.

The race was interrupted by two safety car periods, the second for a spectacular smash when Bamber's team-mate Mitch Cunningham spun into a tyre stack protecting the concrete safety wall.

Cunningham, who had yesterday followed Bamber home to give the International Motorsport team its only 1-2 race result of the season, had earlier spun , dropping out of fourth place. Running last, he slid sideways exiting the same right hand corner and hit the tyre stack, the impact breaking the car in half and bringing out the safety car.

Despite the two safety car periods, Bamber drove a perfect race, defending an early challenge from Australian Nathan Antunes and only putting the Tradezone car off the fast line once when the tail flicked out over a "ripple" median on cold tyres after the second safety car period.

"The surface this morning was pretty slippery, and it was hard to get temperature into the tyres because the track was so cold. I just had to guide the car back into line and not worry about anyone getting close."

At the start, Bamber lined up with 2008 champion and season-long rival Andy Knight alongside him. It was Bamber who got the clean start and took the lead at the first corner, Knight's car slewing sideways under acceleration.

Antunes was through into second place early in the second lap, but Knight was able to fight back and re-take second.

Bamber had stretched out a two second lead by lap two and posted a 1:25.3 second lap in the process.
Behind him, Knight was engaged in a duel for second with Antunes, Nic Jordan taking fourth when Mitch Cunningham had his first spin.

With these two focussing on their own battle, Bamber extended his lead out to 4.6 seconds and was able to concentrate on looking after his car.

"In qualifying I went out hard and used all the kerbs to set pole, but you can't do that all race long with these cars. The surface itself is quite punishing, and lots of people have had problems after jumping these kerbs this weekend, it's an easy way to break suspension."

The other Australian racing this weekend, Jason Bargwanna, was making his first appearance in TRS and fought his way up from 12th to ninth but would fade at the closing laps of the race.

Mitch Cunningham's accident and the safety car laps that resulted closed the field up, placing Bamber's lead under threat from second-placed Andy Knight.

When the track had been cleared of debris and the race re-started, Knight was caught out by Antunes at Turn 1 and subsequently by Nic Jordan, dropping back to fourth and finishing the race in that position.

It was an elated Bamber who cruised through for the win ahead of Nic Jordan, with Antunes scoring third overall.

The Hamilton 400 is the first street race for the bio-fuelled Toyota cars. They reach a top speed of 230 km/h down the front straight, dropping to just 60 km/h at the hairpin. The average speed in Bamber's record-setting lap was 147 km/h - six km/h faster than the V8 Supercars that ran in warmer conditions later in the day.

The lap record is expected to stand as the outright lap record for the inaugural Hamilton 400.