Donington Park Highs And Lows For Barker
DATE ADDED: Tuesday 17 April 2012
After a solid start to his Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain campaign at Brands Hatch two weeks ago, Ben Barker appeared on course to move up the order after a strong opening race in round two at Donington Park.
Despite not having been to the Leicestershire circuit since his 2009 Formula Ford days, Barker made the most of the pre-race test to relearn the slightly altered layout at the wheel of his Parr Motorsport Porsche, before getting up to speed and eventually posting a best time just a tenth off the ultimate pace.
Buoyed by that performance, the 20-year headed into the sole qualifying session confident that he could take the fight to the championship leaders, and duly delivered a brace of fourth-place grid slots. However, despite having improved on his Brands Hatch qualifying performance, Barker still wasn't entirely satisfied.
"I went into the chicane a little hot on my fastest lap and that messed up the exit of the corner," he lamented, "It probably lost me a couple of tenths and, even though it was still my best lap, in a series as close as this, that was enough to cost me a place on the front row."
Lining up on the 'wrong' side of the grid, the #20 Parr machine struggled for grip at the start, but Barker was almost able to snatch two places through the first corner, opting for the wide line as the field bunched up. As it was, he slotted back into fourth as the pack squabbled over second place while poleman Michael Meadows broke away. Holding position for a couple of laps, Barker then gained a place by lining up Sam Tordoff for a move into Redgate, before closing on Richard Plant for second spot.
The pair indulged in a spirited battle, which saw Barker edged onto the grass at one point, before Plant ran wide at Old Hairpin and the Parr driver pounced, securing second place and setting off after Meadows. A two-second gap split the leading cars with six laps to run, but Barker routinely shaved tenths off the margin each time around, only to be denied a shot at victory by the chequered flag.
"It was an intense chase as I had Jonas Gelzinis on my tail throughout," Barker reported, "but I definitely deserved second place, as I reckon I would probably have passed Plant even if he hadn't made a mistake. Another couple of laps could have made all the difference to the result, as I was quicker than Meadows and was only a couple of tenths behind him at the end."
If Barker thought his season was on the up, however, he was given a rude awakening in the weekend's second race after finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time while in the heat of battle.
A poor getaway from fourth on the grid dropped the #20 machine into sixth place, but Barker was quick to engage Daniel Lloyd in search of improvement. Determined not to let the leaders get too far away, and lapping faster than his rival, the pair scrapped over position for five laps before Barker made a move into Redgate. Lloyd responded by cutting back under the Parr entry, leaving the two cars side-by-side exiting Old Hairpin.
Despite being on the outside for the fast kink that followed, Barker could not afford to lose momentum with the climb to McLeans to come, but, hitting tyre debris discarded by earlier BTCC races, the chrome CARS-backed Porsche snapped sideways and, even though Barker caught the twitch, he was then on the grass and powerless to prevent himself from hitting the barriers.
"I couldn't afford to back off as the pack would have swallowed me up," Barker confirmed, "There was no contact with Lloyd, but the impact was still hard, as we were doing around 120mph at that point. In the same situation, however, I'd do the same again - the accident was a consequence of battling for position, and that's a racer's instinct. It's a shame, as we definitely had pace in the car and don't want Meadows running away with things..."
With his first - and hopefully only - DNF of the season denting his score, Barker remains in fifth position in the overall championship standings as the series moves on to the fastest track in the UK, Thruxton, over the weekend of 28-29 April. As usual, all the Sunday action will be captured live on ITV4, including both Carrera Cup races.