Incident leaves Barker wanting more in Hungary
DATE ADDED: Monday 29th July 2013
Ben Barker appeared set for at least a second successive top six finish in the highly competitive Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup when he got a taste of the series’ more physical side at the Hungaroring.
The Supercup rookie started the Budapest weekend on the back foot having never been to the long-standing Hungarian Grand Prix venue before, and practice was spent attempting to learn the tricky 14-turn layout as well as finding the best set-up for his #10 Team Bleekemolen car.
With less than a week having passed since he recorded his best result in the series – sixth place at the Nurburgring in Germany – Barker was confident that, with more and more laps, his times would begin to come down and he would be able to compete for another top ten grid spot. However, timing of another sort proved to be the key to success in qualifying, as the best laps were set right at the end of the short session, and Barker admits that he misjudged when to venture out.
“The best times came right at the end of the session, as our Michelin rubber gradually began to replace the Pirelli rubber laid down by the F1 teams,” he explained, “Instead of being on track for the last two laps, I went too early and missed the window… I’m confident that another top ten start would have been possible, even thought I was still learning the track, which is incredibly technical as well as being both narrow and bumpy. You really have to know your way around to get the best out of the car, but I was getting there….”
Despite being just eight-tenths off the pole position time, Barker found himself down in 13th place on the grid, but remained optimistic of picking up places as both he and the CARS-backed entry continued to pick up pace. Another good start – already a feature of his maiden international campaign – saw the 21-year old pick up one place off the line, before an incident further up the road opened the door for bigger gains.
“I went to the inside to get past Markus Pommer when the lights went out, and that proved to be the right place to be when an accident at turn one caught out those on the outside,” Barker grinned, “Instead of just picking up one place, I was able to pick up seven, and came out of the first turn in sixth!"
Underlining the potential of the Bleekemolen entry, Barker was not only able to run with the cars ahead of him, but exhibited the pace to take a look at snatching fifth from Klaus Bachler. Unable to find a way past the Austrian, however, Barker soon found he had Jean-Karl Vernay on his tail, the Frenchman equally eager to make up as many places as possible after a poor qualifying effort.
After five laps of running in a train, Vernay made a mistake at turn 13, clipping the left rear corner of Barker’s car on the exit of the corner, with the contact enough to spin the former Australian F3 champion down the order. Rejoining in 16th, the Briton was able to race with first-lap ‘bad boy’ Michael Ammermuller, but ran out of time to make up the lost ground and had to settle for a single point as reward for his efforts.
“It could have been so much better,” Barker acknowledged, “I definitely had the pace to get ahead of Bachler, so a top five finish should have been possible. Instead, I ended up 16th through something I had no control over…
“That’s racing I guess, but there are still positives to take from the weekend. Considering I didn’t know the circuit before I arrived, to be running sixth – while slightly fortuitously – showed what I am capable of. The car was nicely balanced, even though there is still some more to come from it, and we know we have enough of a package to be a top six contender wherever we go.”
Round six of the season takes place at the end of August and sees Barker heading for another unfamiliar venue, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
“That’s what this season is all about – learning a new series, a new car and new circuits,” he confirmed, “To be running as well as we are is a bonus but, now that I’ve tasted the top six, I want to be there all the time, no matter whether I know the track or not….”
Barker’s disappointing result, allied to Bachler’s top five finish, sees the Briton slip behind his rival to third in the Rookie Cup standings, while continuing to hold down an impressive top nine position in the overall championship.
The sixth round of the 2013 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup takes place in support of the Belgian Grand Prix over the weekend of 23-25 August.