Barker shines in Abu Dhabi finale
DATE ADDED: Tuesday 5th November 2013
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup rookie Ben Barker saved his best for last in his inaugural season in the F1 support series, narrowly missing a maiden podium in the series’ double-header finale.
Having been made to wait nearly two months since his last Supercup outing before getting on track at the spectacular Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, the 22-year old Briton was determined to give a good account of himself and end the season on a high to help the process of securing the sponsorship necessary to guarantee a spot on the grid for 2014.
Yas Marina presented Barker with one of his biggest challenges of the campaign, another new circuit that he had been unable to test at prior to the event, but he ended the lone 45-minute in seventh position on the timesheets and with raised optimism ahead of qualifying. There was more to come in the timed session too, with his first set of new tyres allowing the Team Bleekemolen driver to post a 2min 14.04secs effort which put him fourth fastest, and just two-tenths off the pole time.
Aware that the time had been lost in the opening sector of the lap, Barker was confident that he could improve on his second set of tyres, but the run did not go to plan as the red flags flew, interrupting his lap. More frustratingly, the flags came out with the #10 machines just two corners from the timing line, and only a tenth down on its original time, which potentially would have been good for third on the grid for race two. Instead, Barker had time for just one flying lap after the interruption, but could not repeat his earlier effort and had to make do with eleventh spot.
“I was chuffed with fourth on the grid for race one, so only managing a place on row six next time around was particularly frustrating,” the BRDC SuperStar admitted, “The timing of the red flag was only a matter of seconds out, but it made a big difference to the outcome of the session. Eleventh on the grid definitely wasn’t a true representation of the pace I had.”
Despite a reasonable getaway in the first of the weekend’s races, Barker found himself caught out as the field bunched up on the opening lap, dropping to fifth as a result, but the pace of the Bleekemolen car remained evident and he was soon back into his starting position. Now in the hunt for a podium finish, the Briton caught Kuba Giermaziak but, in attempting to pass for third, used more than the prescribed circuit at turn eight. Although he emerged in front of his Polish rival, Barker knew that he have to give the position back and duly ceded at the following corner.
Once back in fourth place, the former Australian F3 champion and 2012 Carrera Cup UK runner-up kept the pressure on but, as his tyres started to wear, any advantage he may have had over Giermaziak waned, allowing the Pole to keep hold of the final podium place.
“It was unfortunate not to take my first Supercup podium after being so close and matching the fastest lap of the race, but that's the way it goes sometimes, especially in such a highly-competitive championship,” Barker admitted, “I just ran out of road on my best attempt at passing Kuba and had to give the place back, but the performance of the Bleekemolen car was so good for so long that I was optimistic for race two.”
The second race was always going to be a taller order for the Briton, but another good start allowed him to get a run on both Jeroen Mul and Michael Ammermuller going into turn seven. Although he came close to passing both on the inside, Ammermuller eventually held on to his place as the #10 slotted into tenth place. Sticking with the former Red Bull protégé for the entire race, Barker picked up another place as the pair disposed of Klaus Bachler along the way, but the closely-matched pace of the frontrunners prevented any further gains before the chequered flag.
“I had the same pace as the train ahead of me but, with this competition and equal machinery, I couldn’t get close enough to have a go at anyone,” the CARS-backed driver admitted, “It shows how vital qualifying is, and I paid for not quite getting that better lap in before the red flag came out.”
The meeting had been run under a cloud following the tragic death of points leader Sean Edwards since the Monza round and, despite unofficial attempts to have the finale run as a non-points event, eventually produced a new champion in the shape of Dane Nicki Thiim. Barker ended his rookie campaign tenth in the overall standings and third amongst the series newcomers.
"My congratulations go to Nicki, who sealed the championship under hugely difficult political circumstances,” Barker noted, “I think everyone respects the fact that he has given his championship trophies to Sean's family….
“As for me, I hope that my performances this year have raised interest from both teams and sponsors, as I really want to be back on the grid next year to show what I am really made of! I’d like to thank everyone for their support this season and hope you will continue to follow me in future….”