Ben Barker ended his Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland campaign in battling fashion, narrowly missing out on a return to the same podium where he started his season.
Buoyed by the pace he had shown at the penultimate round of the series a few weeks earlier, the Briton returned to Hockenheim with some optimism, and his confidence was borne out by a strong practice performance that, while leaning a little on his tyre choice put him at the top of the timesheets.
Although the hour-long session was interrupted by red flags, Barker was able to steer his Land Motorsport entry to a lap of 1m 42.578s, fully half a second clear of the rest of the field, setting himself up for the next morning’s 30-minute qualifying session. Again, the #89 machine proved to be on the pace, with Barker posting times good enough for fourth and second position on his first set of tyres, before track conditions changed, leaving the field to wait into the final few minutes before sorting itself out. With everyone attempting a last shot at improving their grid position, negotiating traffic proved to be almost as much of a skill as putting together the perfect lap, particularly with the front of the grid split by fractions of a second.
“Although I knew that my practice pace was partly the product of running new tyres, I was in the top four throughout the session and felt that I had a good car under me,” the Cambridge native noted, “It was encouraging therefore to be able to match that time on my first run in qualifying, as I knew there was more to come.
“The track went through a phase mid-session where no-one was able to improve, but picked up pace again later on, which led to a busy end to qualifying. With others improving, I knew I had to produce on my final run, but it was difficult to find space on the track. I tried backing off to avoid traffic ahead of me, but couldn’t ease up too much in case I lost the best of the tyres, so the warm-up wasn’t perfect. I still matched my times from earlier in the session but, with just a handful of tenths covering the leading runners, I couldn’t find enough of a gain to put myself back into the top four, which was frustrating.”
Starting ninth for race one later that afternoon, Barker immediately set about picking up places, taking advantage of a first lap scramble before catching and passing the trio of Sven Muller, Alex Riberas and Robert Renauer to move into fourth position. Once at the head of the group, he set about closing the gap to the podium places, but was ultimately denied by the clock, with the chequered flag appearing before he could mount a challenge to the top three.
“I knew I had the pace to run towards the front, so it was just a case of making the most of the opportunities that came my way,” the 24-year old explained, “There was always a chance of gaining spots on the first lap, but the car was fast and I was able to pull off some good overtaking moves as well. It’s a shame that I ran out of time to make a real push for the podium, because I’m confident I could have picked up another place or two….”
Although he went into Sunday’s season finale with high hopes, Barker had to work harder for his gains as he came from row six of the grid. With no repeat of Saturday’s first lap incident, there was no immediate boost to his position, but the Briton had still worked his way into seventh by the end of lap five, tucking in behind Land team-mate Connor de Phillippi and a train comprising fellow Porsche Supercup regulars Christian Engelhardt, Muller and Nicki Thiim. Despite setting the second fastest lap of the race on ageing tyres, Barker was unable to make a move stick on de Phillippi and, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, remained seventh to the end.
There was a shock in store, however, as the #89 was adjudged to have jumped the start, with the ensuing penalty demoting Barker a couple of places to ninth, despite the driver’s belief that the call had to be marginal.
“I had strong pace once again but, despite having challenged for sixth place, I didn’t want to take my team-mate off,” he said, “Seventh was a reasonable result considering where I started, but to then learn that I was being penalised for a jump start put a dampener on things. As far as I was concerned, I’d lined up well behind my grid box and, if I had rolled, I was definitely stationary again before the lights went out…”
While dropping a couple of spots in the final result did not have championship implications for Barker, it was a disappointing end to what has been an enjoyable first foray into the German domestic series.
“I’ve had a great time here and it has been a pleasure to work with Land Motorsport for the first time,” he concluded, “It’s been equally fantastic to have the support of Montaplast, RK Print, Sacred and CARS and, while we haven’t had the best of luck this season, I’ve met some wonderful people, and look forward to hopefully working with them again in the future. I’ll now move on to the final round of the Supercup in good heart, taking the positives of this weekend to Austin to end the season on a high.”
The Porsche Mobil1 Supercup finale takes place over two rounds at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas this weekend (23-25 October).