Brilliant Barker Makes It Four In A Row At Rockingham
DATE ADDED: Wednesday 26 September 2012
Ben Barker underlined his position as the form man in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB as he dominated rounds 15 and 16 at Rockingham Motor Speedway in the same way as he had a month ago at Knockhill.
Buoyed by his maiden successes in the highly-competitive series, Barker arrived at Britain's only purpose-built oval in a confident mood, sure that the CARS-backed Parr Motorsport entry would again be a factor. His optimism was borne out in pre-race testing, where he set the pace before rain arrived over the Northamptonshire venue, and qualifying where, after limiting his practice laps to preserve his tyres, the 20-year old moved quickly to the head of the times.
Posting the quickest Carrera Cup times ever seen at Rockingham, Barker posted early times good enough for pole position in both of the following day's races, with margins of a tenth and three-tenths back to his rivals respectively. Although the rest of the field tried to close the gap, Barker's time proved out of reach, delighting the Parr team as it doubled up after claiming both poles north of the border.
"I've really clicked with the car now," Barker enthused, "To get pole at Knockhill was something of a breakthrough, but doing it again here really shows that we're getting the most out of it. Testing showed what we were capable of, and a dry session for qualifying allowed us to build on that."
The forecast for raceday was more forbidding but, with the Carrera Cup due on track early on Sunday morning, Barker led the field out onto a dry circuit once again. As it had at Knockhill, a perfect start saw the #20 machine pull clear of the pack as it rounded turn one, before Barker consolidated his advantage over the opening couple of laps. Setting fastest lap and another circuit record, he gradually opened out a gap of over a second to those behind and controlled the race to the chequered flag. "It's amazing what a little momentum can do," Barker grinned after climbing from the distinctive chrome-coloured car in parc ferme, "We've clearly come here riding on the crest of a wave after Knockhill, and the race was relatively simple. We did a lot of the hard work in qualifying yesterday, and I wasn't really troubled once I got away and opened a gap. It might not have been the most exciting race, but I'll take that every time if it means winning!"
The predicted rain arrived with a vengeance as the programme wore on, and the next time Barker and the Porsche pack saw the grid, an entirely different prospect lay ahead. Once again, however, the former Australian F3 champion got the best of the start despite the slippery conditions, and held his nerve to come out in front as the field entered the infield. An accident behind him saw the field momentarily neutralised behind the safety car, but Barker was in control from the restart, again pulling out a margin of between two and three seconds, which only diminished as he backed off over the final couple of laps.
"This just caps a mega weekend," he claimed, "Winning in the wet and the dry just goes to show how good the Parr team has made this car, and it was a good feeling to keep an accomplished 'rainmaster' like Rory Butcher under control in those conditions. Winning four races on the trot doesn't happen often in a series like the Carrera Cup, so we are really on a roll!"
Having moved to within five points of second place overall after his first win of the day, Barker vaulted past both Sam Tordoff and Jonas Gelzinis to become the biggest threat to long-time series leader Michael Meadows ahead of the penultimate double-header of the season at Silverstone next month. Parr Motorsport also made progress in the teams' championship, climbing to third overall.
"We might only be a couple of points ahead of Sam Tordoff, but second place is what we had set our sights on before the weekend began," Barker insisted, "Without the setbacks we suffered at Donington Park and Snetterton, we would be a lot closer to Michael Meadows, but we have to be happy with our position heading to Silverstone. If we can continue in this vein of form, hopefully we can close the gap further and go to Brands Hatch with a shot at catching him..."
The penultimate round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB takes place at Silverstone over the weekend of 6-7 October.