International stars settle into Supercars

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 05/09/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Star internationals Earl Bamber and Alex Premat have taken to the wheel of their respective PIRTEK Enduro Cup mounts ahead of next weekend’s RABBLE.club Sandown 500.

Bamber, a New Zealander currently based in Malaysia, is sharing the #97 Red Bull Holden with Shane van Gisbergen, while US-based Frenchman Premat rejoins Scott McLaughlin.

The 28-year-old Bamber is a Porsche factory driver, with two Le Mans 24 Hours wins already on his CV, but no Supercars racing experience.

Today’s test marked his first dry laps in the ZB Commodore – after a run in wet practice at Winton – as he prepares to carry the championship hopes of good friend van Gisbergen through the year’s biggest races.

“Since being able to confirm it, it’s been my highlight of the year, coming to do these enduros,” Bamber told Supercars.com.

“The preparation has been going pretty good so far. This is my first running in the dry and we’re running through the motions of pitstops and all that sort of stuff.

“The car is awesome, there’s so much power under the foot, and it's just getting into the rhythm, learning the tyres and understanding how to drive the cars.

“Shane has been awesome, teaching me all the tricks. Every time you go and drive it it’s just learning, learning, learning.

"We’ll keep chipping away trying to get closer and closer to the main guys.”

Premat, meanwhile, has extensive Supercars experience thanks to two full seasons with Garry Rogers Motorsport in 2012 and ’13, before settling into the co-driver role.

He won the Enduro Cup with van Gisbergen in 2016, before defecting to DJR Team Penske last year to reunite with former GRM partner McLaughlin.

McLaughlin and Premat won the Sunday race at the Gold Coast 600 last year, but faced heartbreak at Bathurst as an engine failure ended their day.

Premat has spent this year racing GT cars in America and says he’s relishing being back behind the wheel of a Supercar.

“The car has been pretty good so far,” he said between stints behind the wheel of the retro-themed #17 Shell Ford.

“I’ve been doing long runs, just making sure everything is comfy in the cockpit and comparing the car to last year.

“It’s been good to have more driving time this year (in other cars). The GT4 is very different with ABS and traction control… but it is nice.

“I feel very confident for this year. Last year we did a very strong season, except Bathurst where we had a DNF. I feel good and am really happy to be here.”

Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske have been joined at Queensland Raceway today by single-car squads Tekno Autosports and Matt Stone Racing.

Triple Eight has four cars at the circuit, having been permitted to give its prototype ZB a shakedown alongside its three race cars.

The extra chassis – wearing #1A identification today – undertook aerodynamic testing duties last December and has been rebuilt for use as the squad’s ride car.

Pitstop practice has been a key focus for the teams as they prepare to not only change brake pads, but discs as well at Bathurst under a new-for-2018 rule.

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