Earl Bamber captures Porsche Supercup title; Ammermuller, Perez win COTA Sunday races

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AUSTIN – Michael Ammermuller has won the second Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race of the weekend at Circuit of the Americas, the lone two-race weekend in the series this year, following a titanic scrap with Phillip Eng.

Meanwhile Earl Bamber (pictured) has secured the Porsche Supercup season championship after finishing just behind Ammermuller in second. Eng made it back to third after a four-way battle in the final three laps shook up the race order.

Eng started fourth but made it to second by the end of the first lap; Bamber took a defensive line across the road from pole and Nicki Thiim, the Saturday winner who’d started third on Sunday, was spun exiting Turn 1.

Bamber led from Eng and Ammermuller (who started second) at the end of the first lap, but Eng made it through to the lead by the end of Lap 2. Bamber needed only to focus on the championship and not the race win considering he entered with a 14-point lead to Kuba Giermaziak (137-123).

Ammermuller made it through to second and from there hounded Eng the remainder of the race.

Eng lost the gap when he ran wide on Lap 10 exiting Turn 12, but Ammermuller was unable to seize the opportunity and take the win.

The drama was amplified on Lap 11 of the 14-lap, 30-minute race. Exiting Turn 11 and heading onto the backstraight, there was a four-wide scrap as Eng (No. 12), Ammermuller (4), Bamber (19) and a stealthily closing Ben Barker (15) all ran side-by-side down the straight.

Ammermuller emerged ahead after the action, and Bamber made it through to second with Barker to third and Eng to fourth. Eng made it back to third to secure the podium finish.

For Ammermuller, the former Red Bull protégé, it was his first race win of the season, coming by a margin of victory of 1.198 seconds to Bamber.

Bamber, who won twice this year at Spain and Belgium, has captured the championship by an unofficial margin of 23 points to Giermaziak. Giermaziak finished seventh, hanging on for dear life with a car that had right rear bumper damage.

In the preceding Ferrari Challenge Pirelli Trofeo North America race, Ricardo Perez confirmed the win and the championship in an incident-marred 25-minute race.

Perez won from Scott Tucker, a name familiar to U.S. sports car aficionados from his Level 5 Motorsports operation, and Mark McKenzie. Tucker was making his first race weekend appearance since being part of the winning driver lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January; McKenzie rounded off the weekend with a second podium after winning on Saturday. James Weiland won the CS class, ending seventh overall.

The race ended under yellow flag conditions following a massive shunt for driver Anthony Imperato in the No. 91 Ferrari of Long Island entry through the Esses. Imperato got out under his own power, but the accident with seven minutes remaining meant the end of the race.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”