Barker wins at Bathurst
DATE ADDED: Tuesday 11th February 2014
British sportscar star Ben Barker got his endurance racing career off to a flying start with victory at one of the most iconic circuits in the world, triumphing first time out in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours.
The Briton, who spent last season following the F1 circus as he campaigned a Team Bleekemolen entry in the prestigious Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, returned to Australia – the scene of some of his most notable motorsport achievements to date – to share the Grove Group Porsche 997 GT3 with New Zealand’s Earl Bamber and car owner Stephen Grove in the burgeoning Bathurst event, and the trio’s front-running performance was ultimately rewarded with eighth overall and victory in Class B.
Having qualified fourth in class – despite being up against potent opposition that included a brace of Audi R8's and a more powerful Porsche Carrera Cup S – the Grove team suffered in the opening hours of the race as Bamber, who took the start, endured two blow-outs that cost the #4 car vital time limping back to the pits. However, the Kiwi, like Barker a rising star in the Porsche firmament, managed to recover some of the loss in a determined double stint before handing over his team–mate.
With the early class leader running into mechanical problems around the four-hour mark, Barker was on hand to steer the Grove Porsche into the class lead, and the BRDC Superstar then proceeded to share driving responsibilities with Grove, taking 70 minutes behind the wheel at a time, before Bamber returned to the fray for the final two hours, eventually bringing the black-and-red Porsche home two laps clear of the similar car of David Calvert-Jones, V8 Supercar ace Alex Davison and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long.
“I handed the car over to Earl with us sitting first in class and our nearest rivals a full minute behind,” former Australian F3 champion Barker reported, “They still had to do a driver change at that point, and this gave us a little more time to play with. It was all about judging when to pit under the safety car, but making sure all three drivers did not go over or under the maximum/ minimum time allowed behind the wheel. From handing over to Earl, it was an awesome run to the end, eventually winning by two laps.”
Although he was familiar with Bathurst’s awesome Mount Panorama circuit from his podium-winning appearance there in the 2011 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, the 12 Hours was Barker’s first crack at a serious endurance competition.
“Returning to Bathurst is always a pleasure, and Mount Panorama remains one the biggest challenges for a race driver anywhere in the world,” the 21-year old confirmed at the end of his team’s 286-lap odyssey, “The 12 Hours is growing as one of motorsport’s premier long-distance races, and now attracts some of the biggest names in the sport. It was an honour racing against the likes of Craig Lowndes, Will Davison, Bernd Schneider, Pat Long and Mika Salo, and has only whetted my appetite for more.
“Thanks to Stephen Grove for putting his trust in me and I’m glad we were able to do the job. It feels great to start my endurance racing career with a win – and I’m already hoping I get the chance to do it again!”
Although his plans for the rest of 2014 have yet to be announced, Barker hopes to return for a second season in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.