DATE ADDED: Monday 11th May 2015
Ben Barker started the 2015 Porsche Mobil1 Supercup season as he finished 2014 by recording a top ten finish on debut with the Momo-Megatron team in Barcelona.
The Briton, who finished every race of last year’s campaign in the top ten, overcame a frustrating qualifying performance to run with the battle for fifth place, racking up seven valuable points as the Circuit de Catalunya proved typically immune to passing opportunities.
Having tested well at the Spanish Grand Prix venue in pre-season, Barker began free practice with a tried-and-tested set-up, only to find that track conditions had changed, necessitating the use of a second set of tyres as he tweaked the #10 machine. Although the adjustments proved good enough for the 24-year old to move up to fifth position, he was later demoted to eighth as a result of exceeding track limits, but remained confident heading into qualifying.
Despite adapting the car further overnight in order to cope with the low grip conditions, the Momo-Megatron team was again undone as Friday’s late afternoon action helped to improve the track surface, leaving Barker to battle a handling imbalance throughout the crucial timed session, eventually winding up 13th overall.
“We started practice on the fast set-up we had at the pre-season test, but quickly found out that the track was at least two seconds off what I did back then,” the Cambridge native commented, “As a result, I ran a second set of tyres as I wanted to make a change and ended up P5 before being knocked back to P8 by the stewards!
“The car felt better and I was only 0.15secs off, but we adapted it more for qualifying - only to find that the track had got a second quicker than the previous day! My sector times showed that the car was capable of a top five position, but it was always on edge, with oversteer making it hard to piece three good sectors together.”
Having used his remaining new tyres in qualifying, Barker was forced to start the race on a set of used rubber, but made a good getaway, initially improving to P12 before gaining another six positions as he picked his way through a turn two accident. However, as most of the cars around the Briton had the luxury of running new tyres, the #10 could not hold on to its position, dropping back to P8 within a lap. A two-lap safety car interruption kept the pack together, but Barker’s lack of grip saw him concede another spot on the restart, before clinging on to the tail of the group battling for a podium spot.
“I got a break on the opening lap, picking the right escape door when the accident happened in front of me, but I knew I had to try and sit tight and hope the guys on new tyres would fall towards me at the end of the race,” the Briton acknowledged, “Although that happened, it was not by as much as I had thought, and moving up from P9 proved impossible, even though I was right on the tail of the battle for fifth in the closing laps.
“In hindsight, it would have been optimum to have had new tyres for the race, but we were trying to find the balance of the car throughout practice and qualifying so that we would at least have a good starting position. That didn’t play into our hands but, having used older tyres on my run to the podium here last year, we had confidence in the strategy.
“In the end, the track conditions changed and worked against us, so it was a disappointing start to the season. However, on the plus side, I still got some points to get the season rolling and we will learn from this weekend and move on to Monaco, which I am very much looking forward to!”
With a free weekend between Porsche Mobil1 Supercup rounds, Barker will return to the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany for round two, on the fearsome Nurburgring Nordschleife over 14-16 May, looking to add to his Hockenheim podium haul before heading to Monaco.