Barker defies 'unlucky 13' to maintain top ten Supercup run
DATE ADDED: Monday 8th September 2014
Ben Barker overcame a penalty-affected starting position and kerb-damaged steering to haul himself into another top ten point-scoring finish in the Italian round of the Mobil1 Porsche Supercup at Monza.
The weekend started well for the Verva Lechner Racing driver as he kept his name at the top end of the timesheets in a dry-wet-dry practice session, but knew that fractions of a second would again make all the difference when it came to qualifying on Saturday. With the Supercup renowned for its close competition, and a handful of Italian ‘circuit experts’ making guest appearances at the Monza round, the crucial timed session would take on greater importance as Barker attempted to hold on to his third place in the championship standings, especially as the Briton also had to overcome a three-place grid penalty imposed on him following the previous round at Spa-Francorchamps.
“Practice was dry for the first four laps, but was only dry for one lap thereafter, so I spent a lot of time in the pits, waiting,” Barker explained, “I was P3 on the time I did early on and, knowing that we had a fairly good car for qualifying and thinking it would not dry up, I did not go out again.
“That decision looked good early on in qualifying as my first flying lap was good enough for P2, but the order kept changing as other drivers went out for their second runs. I knew I had three laps to set another good time on my second set of tyres, but they weren’t ‘in’ on my first flyer and, on my next attempt, I found myself towing my team-mate around before being asked to let him through in the final sector.
“That meant that my last lap had to count, and things were still looking good as I had a purple sector one and a fast sector two. However, in the last sector, my tyres started to overheat and, with too little camber on the set-up, I really could not get any power down, which resulted in more oversteer than I wanted. I lost three-tenths in that final sector, which was the difference between getting pole and finishing tenth – it was that close! I was really annoyed as it felt like it was going to be a truly special lap and, after the penalty was applied, it meant I’d be starting from P13. However, on the plus side, my tow helped Kuba [Giermaziak] get P2, so he owes me a beer!”
Starting from his lowest grid position of the year meant that the race was always going to be tough for Barker, particularly with Monza’s opening chicane being infamous for potentially race-ending melees. However, a great getaway allows the 23-year old to make up places immediately and, despite having to take evasive action to avoid a slower car as he exited the chicane, Barker was able to latch onto the leading group.
His pursuit of reigning Supercup champion Nicki Thiim proved frustrating for the Briton and, as he looked for a way past the Dane, Monza’s high kerbs gradually took their toll on the #15 CARS-backed entry, making life behind the wheel more difficult and leading to an unexpected trip through the turn one infield as he attempted to make up further positions. However, despite the setback, the BRDC SuperStar overcame his difficulties to again pick off rivals and reclaim a position inside the top ten.
“A mega start put me up to P10 and, as I was looking great for pace behind the train, I was really keen to get past Thiim,” Barker revealed, “However, after hitting a lot of kerb, my steering was knocked off-centre by a considerable amount, which made the car inconsistent under braking, with the front end locking up.
“I dropped two spots by going straight on at the first chicane, but I was able to weave my way through the bollards and rejoined, determined to get back on terms with the group I’d been battling with. Even though the car wasn’t great, I managed to close the gap and fight my way back from P13 to take P9 as we came across the line for the final time. As always, I’d like to say thank-you to the Verva Lechner team and all my sponsors, and I look forward to ending the season on a high in Austin.”
Although frustrated with his result, posting an eighth successive top ten finish keeps Barker firmly in the hunt for third place in the closely-fought championship standings, with just November’s double-header at The Circuit of the Americas in Texas remaining on the schedule.
Rounds nine and ten of the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup take place at COTA over the weekend of 31 October - 2 November.