Barker wins at Le Mans
DATE ADDED: Sunday 15th June 2014
Ben Barker added another famous name to the list of circuits he has conquered in 2014, taking a dramatic last-lap win in the combined Porsche Carrera Cup GB/Carrera Cup France encounter in front of nearly 250,000 spectators at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Returning to the Parr Motorsport team he led to a double victory in the PCCGB season-opener at Brands Hatch in March, Barker was immediately on the pace at the historic La Sarthe circuit, defying his lack of track experience to post the second fastest time in free practice, leading all the British series contenders.
“I love Le Mans!” the 23-year old Cambridge resident enthused after the session, “This is such an iconic venue, and the circuit itself is awesome. It took a while to learn all eight miles of it but, as with any new track, you’ve just got to get on with it and take some risk. Although there was a lot of traffic, I was quickly into a groove and finally got a clear lap. I probably missed the best of the session, so I was delighted to come out with second fastest time overall, even more so considering a lot of the French runners have more experience here.”
While he continued to pace the PCGGB regulars in qualifying on Thursday evening , Barker had to settle for fourth place overall on the massive 62-car grid after the hour-long session was interrupted by red flags Although he was trading times with the fastest of the French drivers right form the start, the difficulty of finding a clear lap returned to deny him the chance of setting fastest time overall, but the Briton still finished nearly a full second clear of double British champion and 2014 title contender Michael Meadows.
“I just caught traffic at the wrong time,” Barker lamented, “Even though the track is so long, I seemed to come across cars every time the tyres were at their best – and, on my second run, I was 1.5secs up and then got yellow flags at the exit of the Porsche Curves. It was very frustrating but, on a positive note, I was still the fastest PCCGB runner and starting in the first couple of rows.”
Despite his guest appearance at Le Mans coming at the end of a hectic schedule that took him from Spain to Belgium, Monaco and Austria via a trans-Atlantic debut in the IMSA series at Detroit, Barker showed no signs of fatigue as the 45-minute race got underway on Saturday morning as the curtain-raiser to the world famous 24 Hours.
Benefiting from an early clash between polesitter Kevin Estre and Porsche Mobil1 Supercup rival Earl Bamber, Barker also picked off GP2 Series driver Tom Dillmann to move into second place with a strong move in the opening laps. He then hounded Estre for much of the race, with the gap between them never greater than three seconds. Despite closing on the works McLaren GT driver, it appeared that time may be against Barker, but Lady Luck smiled in his favour late on as Estre suffered a puncture on the final lap, allowing the Parr car to sweep past and take victory.
“Wow!” a wide-eyed Barker exclaimed, “If I loved Le Mans before, I really love it now! That was an incredible race at an incredible venue and I am so happy to have come out on top. I got a great start and was able to pick Dillmann off early on, and then Bamber’s problem meant that I was able to hunt Estre down. It’s unfortunate that he suffered the puncture when he did, but that’s racing – it happens to all of us at some point - and I was glad that I was there to pick up the win.
"I want to say thanks to RK Printcoat Instruments, Ramair and Sesanti for their support for this iconic event and I pleased I could give them something to cheer.”
While not eligible to score points in the PCCGB, where he has now won each of his three guest races in 2014, Barker can at least add Le Mans to the equally legendary Bathurst and Brands Hatch as scenes of success this season, and will return to Porsche Mobil1 Supercup action in Austria next weekend (20-22 June) in confident mood as he looks to build on the strong results that have put him into a share of second place overall after the opening rounds of the premier international Porsche championship.