Barker thwarted by Italian traffic
DATE ADDED: Monday 9th September 2013
Traffic jams are a common occurrence in most Italian cities, but Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup rookie Ben Barker was frustrated to find that they also extended to the historic Autodromo Nazionale at Monza at the weekend.
Buoyed by a return to the points in the preceding round at Spa-Francorchamps, the Team Bleekemolen driver had high hopes for the trip to Italy, having tested positively at Monza in the build-up to his maiden international sportscar campaign. However, his ambitions were tempered in both qualifying and the race, forcing him to settle for a rare finish outside the top ten.
The weekend started positively for Barker, as he posted the seventh fastest time in free practice on Friday despite feeling that he could still improve the handling of the #10 machine for the long straight, quick corners and fiddly chicanes of the Italian Grand Prix venue.
A similar performance on his first set of tyres in qualifying left the Briton in the top echelon, but knowing that he would have to find more time as the track became more conducive to fast laps later in the session. Annoyingly, his second run then coincided with the advent of yellow flags in the final sector and, with just one flying lap available, Barker found that his tyres were past their best.
“Having waited for more rubber to go down, I had time for four timed laps at the end of the session, but lost three of those to the caution,” Barker sighed, “Although the yellow flags were withdrawn in time for my final lap, the tyres had gone through several heat cycles and I was battling with the handling of the car. It was particularly frustrating as I had been four-tenths up on my previous best lap when the flags came out, so I know my time could have been better.
“With the level of competition as high as it is in the Supercup this season, the slightest problem means a difference of a tenth or two to your lap time and, at Monza, that costs a lot of places on the grid. I was only eight-tenths off pole which, at Spa, would still have meant a spot in the top ten. Here, it meant I would start from 17th!”
Starting so far back on the grid left Barker vulnerable to the infamous bottleneck at the Rettifilio chicane but, despite almost coming to a halt while the field sorted itself out, he survived unscathed. Having made up a position on the run to the corner, the CARS-backed Briton emerged from the chicane in 14th and on the back of the lead group. Making use of the Monza slipstream to gain another two places at the expense of team-mates Sebastian Bleekemolen and Jeroen Mul, Barker then found himself on the back of Porsche junior Martin Ragginger. Picking the Austrian off brought the #10 car onto the fringe of the top ten, but attempts to pass Jeroen Bleekemolen only served to drop him back into the clutches of Ragginger, who duly reclaimed eleventh position.
“It was a typical Monza race, with lots of passing and re-passing, but the amount of traffic ultimately prevented me from making up more positions,” Barker noted, “The first corner was like the M25 on the worst of days but, having survived that, we were just running in a train where making a move on the car in front left you open to attack from behind. I was having to look forward and watch my mirrors all at the same time!
“I posted the eighth best lap of the race, just four-tenths off the best, so the car clearly had good pace, but I know I could have been faster had it not been for the cars around me. Although the race itself was frustrating, the result was okay considering where I started, and I still managed to add a few points to my total. I’ve just got to keep my chin up and look forward to the final round of the season.”
Barker’s result keeps him in a share of ninth position in the overall standings and third in the rookie series as the championship heads to Yas Marina for a spectacular finale in support of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix over the weekend of 1-3 November.
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