Barker sets pace as Gulf Racing steps up at Paul Ricard
DATE ADDED: Monday 15th September 2014
Ben Barker continued to mark himself out as one of sportscar racing’s rising stars as he dominated the opening stages of the latest European Le Mans Series round at Paul Ricard in the south of France.
Returning to the Gulf Racing team after a long hiatus prompted by the sparse ELMS schedule and his commitments to competing in both the global Porsche Mobil1 Supercup and Tudor United Sportscar Championship in the USA, Barker was immediately on the pace with the squad’s new Porsche 911 RSR, which eventually finished the practice sessions sixth overall in the LMGTE class.
Qualifying proved to be even better for the Gulf team, as co-driver Adam Carroll moved to car up a couple of spots, but it was Barker who would be behind the wheel for the start of the four-hour race on Sunday afternoon
“Having tested the new car between my other racing commitments, it was clear that it would be an improvement on the one with which we started the season,” Barker commented, “The first couple of sessions underlined that impression, and then Adam did a great job to qualify just a handful of tenths off the class leaders.”
Once racing got underway, Barker wasted little time in moving forward, grabbing a tow down the long straight on the opening lap to vault himself from fourth to first by the time the pack crossed the line. Once in front, he continued to show his pace, pulling out a ten-second cushion over the chasing pack before having to make a first pit-stop for fuel and tyres.
Retaking the LMGTE lead once the various strategies played out, Barker once again proved to be the class of the field, all but doubling his advantage as he pushed the iconic blue-and-orange Porsche out to a 19secs advantage by the end of his double stint
“The car was incredibly consistent throughout the two hours,” Barker reported, “It felt good to jump into the lead so early on and, after that, it was just a question of keeping everything under control. I wouldn’t have expected to pull out that big a lead as comfortably as I did, but it just shows the potential of the 911 RSR.”
Barker handed the Porsche over to car owner Mike Wainwright before Carroll took over for the final stint, but the Gulf squad had to be content with sixth in class when the chequered flag fell.
“Mike did a good job, but he needs more time in the car,” Barker noted, “On a personal note, I was happy with my performance. I was able to keep a decent lead and was very consistent throughout my stint. Although the Ferrari 458s still have the edge on pace over a long stint, we are pleased that we are closer to them with the new car - and happy that we led at least half the race! I love the 911 RSR and it was great having some factory support at this round, which allowed me to learn how they work with a driver from an engineering point of view. All in all, it was a positive weekend.”
With the Porsche Supercup not returning to action until early November’s finale in Texas, Barker will gain advance insight into the Circuit of the Americas with an outing in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship’s Lone Star Le Mans event this coming weekend (19-20 September).