Ben Barker Splashes To Thruxton Podium
DATE ADDED: Tuesday 01 May 2012
Ben Barker continued the front-running form he displayed at Donington Park to add another podium finish to his Porsche Carrera Cup GB tally at a very wet Thruxton.
After a solid top three performance in testing a couple of weeks before the event, the 20-year old Parr Motorsport driver went in to qualifying confident that he could secure a front of the grid starting position, despite the tricky track conditions.
Already rated as Britain's fastest circuit, Thruxton takes on another dimension in the wet but, with conditions somewhere in between, making the right tyre choice at the right time would define the outcome of the 30-minute session. Despite the circuit drying after early morning rain, damp deposits ensured that the entire field started on wet-weather tyres, and Barker quickly moved to the head of the timesheets, holding a half-second advantage over his nearest rival. However, as the track continued to improve, those who made the switch to slicks first benefited from enough time to make them work, with a couple of drivers moving ahead of Barker's #20 machine in the final order and leaving it third and fourth for the weekend's two races.
With both rounds due to take place on Sunday, the forecast was always likely to mean wet conditions, but the Porsche field endured the worst of the weather for its first encounter. Such was the danger of aquaplaning, the order was given to start behind the safety car, negating Barker's first opportunity to make up places, but Parr man was not to be denied and, having already set the race's fastest lap, he finally pulled a move around the outside of Richard Plant at the Complex that secured second spot on lap 15.
Although points leader Michael Meadows had had to give best to Plant at the start, regaining the advantage also gave him the chance to benefit from better visibility and make a break. Barker was some eight seconds adrift of his rival when he too demoted Plant but, just as he had at Donington, soon began to erode the gap. Over the last six laps, he gradually brought the difference down, before a final lap effort reduced to a shade under three seconds.
"It was pretty scary out there," Barker admitted, "The amount of spray when running in the pack made it almost impossible to see, but I had to press on. Once I got past Plant, it was better as the road ahead was clear, but Meadows had already established a decent lead, so all I could do was close him down before time ran out - again. Getting fastest lap was a bonus, and showed that we had a decent set-up on the car."
Conditions had improved by the time the cars took to the track for the weekend's second and final race, but not enough to make the tyre choice an easy one for the drivers, with a drying surface likely to eat up wets but not provide enough grip for slicks. In the end, Barker and the rest of the field plumped for the dry weather rubber, but the Cambridge native found that, as he fought to get sufficient temperature to make them work effectively, he slipped back from his fourth starting spot.
One place was regained on the second lap, but the conditions still precluded the taking of risks, and it was fully eleven laps before the #20 machine moved up again, passing Jonas Gelzinis for fifth place and, with everyone driving to a similar pace, that was where it finished.
"It was a lonely race once I got back into the top five," Barker admitted, "but it would have been so easy to make a mistake and throw everything away. There is no script for a race in those conditions, and the leaders were too far down the road for me to have made any difference to the result. With no-one else taking risks, it was important to hold on to a healthy number of points and that's just what we did."
Finishing both races in the top five provided enough of a points haul to move Barker up one spot, to fourth, in the overall standings ahead of a six-week break before the Carrera Cup GB field reconvenes at Oulton Park on 9-10 June, where all the action will again by captured by ITV4.
While Barker hopes to fit in some testing between now and then, however, his immediate focus is a return to single-seater racing with an outing at the prestigious Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, where he will drive a 1978-specification works Lola - once tested and developed by Nigel Mansell - in the Classic F3 competition.
"It will be fascinating to try something completely different," the former Australian F3 champion said of a driving a car that originates from before he was born, "I've managed to fit myself into the Lola, and now I have to learn my way around Monaco, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and can't wait to get going..."