Fighting fifth for Barker at Brands
DATE ADDED: Tuesday 3 April 2012
Ben Barker’s return to the Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain netted a brace of fifth place finishes as the 2012 campaign kicked off on the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent.
After two podium appearances in as many events with Parr Motorsport in 2011, Barker returns from a two-year sojourn in Australia to chase the UK title with the same team this season, and early testing performances suggested that the 20-year old would be in the thick of the action from the start. The only element missing from his preparation was a significant amount of new tyre running, and this proved to be the key to a good lap from the start of the Brands Hatch weekend.
After placing sixth in the official pre-event test, Barker was frustrated to be unable to put two quick sectors together when it mattered in qualifying. The eye-catching CARS International-backed chrome-liveried #20 Parr machine was quick through the first part of the lap, where he was second fastest, but then struggled to feature in the top ten in sector two and, by the time team and driver had got a handle on the problem, it was too late to improve on fifth position on the timesheets.
“Row three wasn’t too bad, but I knew we could have done better,” Barker admitted after the session, which also took the drivers’ second best laps to form the grid for race two, leaving him sixth fastest, “Everyone came into the event with a lot of momentum from testing, but varying degrees of experience on the new tyres, and we just couldn’t put two quick sectors together.”
With race one taking place later the same day, the Parr team worked to improve the #20’s second sector pace, but a disappointing getaway dropped Barker to sixth on the road heading into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. With overtaking at a premium on the tight circuit, he remained in the same spot for the opening ten laps, but was forced to defend doggedly as a loose steering column bracket meant that the car lacked precision when cornering and rear-biased braking did little to help the turn-in oversteer that quickly developed.
Barker’s persistence was eventually rewarded when Daniel Lloyd suffered a puncture and spun out of fourth place, promoting the Parr entry to fifth on the road. Having shaken the attentions of the chasing Glynn Geddie, he then found himself in something of a ‘no mans land’, unable to close sufficiently on those ahead, but likewise not under pressure from his pursuers, and cruised home to cement a top five finish and a useful haul of points with which to open his campaign.
“The loose bracket made it difficult to place the car with any precision,” Barker confirmed, “and that meant that it was hard work to catch the leaders, even though we were still lapping at a comparable pace. Even if I had caught them, passing on this layout takes 110 per commitment – 109 per cent just isn’t enough – so I have to be content with fifth on this occasion.”
In a direct contrast to his first race getaway, Barker gained a place at the start of race two, but moving from sixth to fifth only led to trouble as, having just edged past race one winner Richard Plant, the #20 received enough of a nudge on its rear quarter panel to send it spinning through 180 degrees, leaving Barker running backwards down the slope from Paddock Hill Bend with the pack looking for a way around him. Fortunately, his assailant continued the contact, contriving to push the Bury St Edmunds driver back in the right direction, albeit now down in 13th position.
“I was pretty upset, as you can imagine,” Barker admitted, “but, despite minor damage, the car was still quick and, with another car off in the gravel at the first corner, the safety car allowed the pack to bunch up, which obviously helped me out.”
Right from the restart, the former Australian F3 champion was on a mission, picking off slower rivals with regularity, gaining four places in the first two laps back at racing speeds, and eventually reclaiming sixth as the race passed its halfway point on lap 17. Another safety car interruption then closed the gap to the leading group, allowing Barker to renew hostilities with Geddie before setting the Scot up through Clearways and completing his pass for fifth at Paddock Hill. Although he then closed on fourth-placed Sam Tordoff over the remaining laps, time ran out before another position could be gained.
“I was much happier with the car and set-up in race two, and that showed with second fastest lap and the places we gained,” Barker noted, “Who knows what we could have achieved without what having to come back from 13th, but it bodes well for the future.”
After his two top five finishes, Barker sits in the same position in the overall championship standings as the series moves Donington Park in the middle of April.