Barker Consolidates On Oulton Park Learning Curve
DATE ADDED: Tuesday 12 June 2012
Ben Barker made the most of the opportunities presented to him as he made his Porsche Carrera Cup GB debut at Oulton Park to rack up valuable championship points as the season approaches halfway.
The Parr Motorsport driver had only previously visited the Cheshire circuit during a wet Formula Ford weekend three years previously and, having missed the pre-season Carrera Cup test, was already playing catch-up on his main rivals when practice began on Friday.
With no new wet tyres to throw at the car during the damp session, Barker's times were always going to be unrepresentative, but when the weather changed for the better ahead of qualifying on Saturday, his task began all over again - with the added importance of trying to press on and post the fastest time possible.
"Oulton Park is a technical track, where it is important to get the right braking points, but I had never tackled it in the dry before, so that made qualifying a little trickier," the 20-year old explained, having posted times good enough for seventh and eighth on the grid for Sunday's two races, "The outcome wasn't ideal, but was the best we could do in the circumstances."
With the dry weather continuing into race day, Barker and Parr at least had some useful data to work with. The former F3 champion then made a decent getaway to race one and almost immediately moved into sixth place when Glynn Geddie made a mistake, before an aggressive move on Richard Plant at the chicane a lap later elevated the #20 another position.
Despite starting to bridge the gap to the lead group, however, Barker eventually found his tyres beginning to overheat as a lack of data on pressures began to tell, and he soon fell into the clutches of the chasing Rory Butcher. Although he managed to fend the Scot off for several laps, there was no denying him forever, and the Parr driver was pushed back to sixth place with four laps remaining.
While the result was frustrating, the 18-lap encounter at least provided further information for the Parr engineers to work with, and Barker headed to the grid for race two with more confidence in his set-up. Despite holding his eighth position at the start, however, the BRDC Superstar was caught out by fluids spilt by another car on the second lap, causing him to lose a place and, although he quickly repassed Derek Pierce, the slippery surface made it difficult to repeat the move on Olly Mortimer, despite clearly being able to lap faster than his rival.
The pair circulated in tandem for the next ten laps, and were eventually joined by the recovering Geddie, but the Scot's desire to continue picking up places only resulted in him running into the back of Barker's car, damaging his own radiator and adding to the tricky conditions as it lost its coolant.
Knowing that it would probably require further mistakes from his rivals if he was to gain places, Barker was quick to seize on an error from Mortimer to move up into seventh and, once ahead, he again demonstrated the pace of the Parr machine by posting some of the fastest laps of the race, culminating in a personal best on the penultimate tour. By that point, he had caught up with Plant but, despite shadowing the #5 entry for several laps, Barker was unable to find a way through and had to settle for seventh place.
"It wasn't our best weekend in terms of results," the youngster admitted, "but I think we can be happy with the way our performance progressed. We definitely had pace in both car and driver, but just lost too much time as a result of having to come from further down the grid than we have been used to. That, in turn, stemmed from being behind everyone else in terms of experience at the start of the weekend, so I think we have to be content to have scored useful points in both races and go from there."
"The season isn't at its halfway point yet, and we're still in touch with the top three in the championship, so there is a long way to go."
After the six-week gap between races, Barker now has just a fortnight to wait before getting back on track at Croft, in north Yorkshire, over the weekend of 23-24 June.