Barker bounces back in Belgium
DATE ADDED: Monday 26th August 2013
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup rookie Ben Barker defied another steep learning curve to claim a top ten finish on his first visit to the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
After a month-long break enforced by the summer shutdown in F1, which the Supercup supports throughout Europe, the highly-competitive Porsche series returned for its sixth round at the historic Ardennes venue, and served up possibly Barker’s toughest assignment of the season. At over 7km in length, Spa is the longest circuit on the schedule and, with only 45 minutes of practice in which to learn its intricacies, Barker admitted that he was still some way from his usual comfort zone approaching the all-important qualifying session.
“Although I managed P11 in practice, I was still learning the circuit at the end of the session, experimenting with lines and braking points,” the Team Bleekemolen driver confessed, “It’s such a long lap, with high speeds and tough corners, that I felt a little rushed when it came to taking it all in.
“Fitting new tyres for qualifying made a big difference to the cars, as we were suddenly lapping 2.5 seconds quicker than we had in testing, but I had to rely on the time from my first run, as there was gravel on the track second time around, which affected the tyres and left me with understeer. It was frustrating as my split times in sectors one and three were close to the best – but it’s all about sector two at Spa…”
Barker’s inexperience showed in his starting position as, still getting to grips with the layout, he lined up on row seven of the grid for Sunday’s race. The short run to La Source doesn’t usually present too many opportunities to improve position at the start, but that did not prevent the rookie from taking a look at the series veterans ahead of him, although the ever-changing scrum of cars attempting to get through the infamous Eau Rouge on lap one deterred a rash early move for position.
Despite a brush with Christian Engelhardt, which knocked his tracking out, Barker ended the opening lap in twelfth spot and a good run through Eau Rouge second time around allowed the Briton to get a run on Engelhardt and Richie Stanaway into Les Combes. Locking up under braking, the #10 car overshot the corner, but the error probably saved Barker from becoming a casualty as Jean-Karl Vernay – his assailant from round five at the Hungaroring – also misjudged the corner and would have collected the CARS-backed machine!
Having gained two places despite his run through the infield, Barker was able to settle into a rhythm that allowed him to chase down Bleekemolen team-mate Jeroen Mul, gradually eating into the Dutchman’s advantage until he was able to pull alongside through the double right-hander at Stavelot. With Mul not willing to give up his position easily, the pair ran mirror-to-mirror through the long Blanchimont left-hander before Barker eventually prevailed around the outside.
Despite posting the fifth fastest lap of the race and routinely bettering the times of those around ahead of him as he got to grips with the track over the final four laps, his next targets, the Attempto cars of series veterans Kevin Estre and Nicki Thiim, were some way up the road, and Barker looked like having to settle for tenth spot. However, his efforts were rewarded on the final lap when long-time leader Kuba Giermaziak appeared to run out of fuel, with the Briton catching his ailing rival at Blanchimont to move up to ninth spot.
“It was an exciting race – which is not something you can often say about Porsche races at Spa,” Barker admitted afterwards, “The first couple of laps were a bit manic, with positions changing all the time, but things settled down after that and I was able to get a good run on Engelhardt and Stanaway – although I was lucky to escape being collected by Vernay in the process!
“The move on Mul was fun too, with neither of us wanting to cede through two of the toughest corners on the track. Obviously, as team-mates, we didn’t want to do anything silly, but it was good racing. Estre and Thiim were just out of reach at the end, but Giermaziak’s problem gave us an unexpected bonus, which I was happy to accept.”
Barker’s result confirms his ninth position in the overall standings and third in the rookie series as the championship heads to Monza for its final European round in support of the Italian Grand Prix over the weekend of 6-8 September.
Click here for full results.