My Team Qi-Meritus.Mahara has revealed that rising New Zealand star Earl Bamber will fill its second seat alongside the experienced Alex Yoong for this winter's GP2 Asia campaign, which begins at next weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
The Kiwi joins the team fresh from a triumphant A1GP weekend at Zandvoort and joined Yoong in testing at Shanghai's International Circuit on Wednesday and Thursday. He brings experience of the Formula Renault V6 series, leading this year's points race after racing against eventual champion James Winslow in 2007, as well as that gained in the A1GP car, and hopes that that will allow him to get to grips with original-spec GP2 Dallara..
"It is a great honour to be associated with such a strong team as My Team Qi-Meritus.Mahara, which I have known ever since we won the Formula BMW Asia championship together in 2006," Bamber commented, "I am convinced that it is one of the most professional teams in the paddock and we will not fail to score points again from the first race of the season.
"I hope that my experience in A1 Grand Prix will help us work our way up the overall championship, even though I missed the first part of the test session because I was still travelling from Holland to Shanghai. It is a different car to A1, but the package is good and there is a lot more grip. I suppose it will take me a while to get used to the car, but I progressed after day two and drove about 250 kilometres.
"It is important to work hard to improve the car, plus correct a few mistakes I made, but the potential is quite good. The race weekend will be a big step up from all the other series I have driven until now - even A1GP. I need to put in a bit more work and debrief with the team to finalise a good strategy for the race, as there are only five or six more long working days to go before we can be fully ready for the first race next week."
Team principal Gianfranco Bielli admitted that it might be a risk taking someone as inexperienced as Bamber in the second car, but was confident that their established working relationship would pay dividends.
"We are excited to have Earl driving with us in GP2 Asia," he noted, "It will be a good experience for him. He has a lot to learn, but is very quick and continues to impress with every lap he covers. It will be a good combination if we manage no mistakes on the drivers' part and a good car. It is a pity that the red flags disrupted the track time [during testing] and prevented us from completing a full race distance with Earl, but we are confident that he learns fast."
Bamber joins the already confirmed Yoong, Malaysia's most successful race driver, who teams up with Asia's most successful team for GP2 Asia.
“Meritus are without doubt the most successful racing team in Malaysia, if not in the whole of Asia, and I'm both excited and delighted to be part of their team,” the former F1 driver commented after this week's test, “I had not been in a race car since April's A1 race, but I'm pleased to have taken part in the tests as it allowed me to get the feel of the new car and shake off some rust.