DATE ADDED: Tuesday 5th May 2015
Ben Barker produced a near-perfect start to his debut season in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany by banking two early podium finishes on which to build his title bid.
The Briton, driving for Land Motorsport after clinching a late deal on the basis of some strong testing performances, expected to face stiff competition from other Porsche Mobil1 Supercup regulars doubling up in the national championship, but got his weekend off to a solid start by producing the sixth fastest lap in Friday’s practice session.
All his preparatory work was washed out, literally, when qualifying rolled around, as rain soaked the Hockenheim circuit ahead of the timed session. With no previous experience of the venue in the wet, Barker had to learn its nuances all over again, but did so quickly and produced lap times good enough for a spot at the front end of the grid.
“Practice was dry and the car felt really balanced,” he commented, “I ended up P6 with a lap I knew I could improve on by a fair bit. However, it rained for qualifying and I had never been to Hockenheim in the wet, so I set out knowing I had to explore and find the grip.
“Fortunately, the lines became apparent straight away and, on my first set of tyres, I banked a lap that was good for a front row start. Then, on my second set, I banked an even quicker time, which was good enough for P3 on the grid for race two – a great way to kick off the season with a new team in a new championship!”
Starting second on a dry track for the opening race of the season, Barker made a good getaway and held position into the first corner. However, the #89 MontaPlast-backed Porsche quickly came under pressure as the Briton waited for his set-up to come good, and eventually lost a place as Barker suffered a transmission glitch. Although the problem rectified itself, Barker was now playing catch-up and, despite the handling of the car coming to him as the race wore on, he ran out of time to make the move that would have reclaimed second spot.
“We had a strategy that didn’t really pay off for us,” he admitted afterwards, “We started with low pressures to have a strong car at the end so, on laps 1-4, I was battling with some understeer and didn’t have masses of confidence under braking. I held P2 until lap 5, when I went into the hairpin and first gear did not engage properly. The car was stuck in neutral for a few seconds, which was enough to lose a position. Ironically, while I was in P3, the car slowly came to me and I was able to put pressure on second place, but wasn’t quite close enough to make a move over the final three laps. Third place was still a good start to the season, and I was happy with a podium first time out, but a tiny bit miffed knowing that it could have been P2.”
The Baden-Wurttemberg weather continued to play tricks on the drivers, with rain returning with a vengeance before race two. Conditions were so bad that the drivers were forced to start behind the safety car before being released in to the spray. Once again, Barker made a good start – this time from a rolling grid – and comfortably held onto his initial third spot, albeit dropping away from the two leading runners….
“It was so wet!” Barker exclaimed, “There were streams running across the track, so they were very tricky conditions. Although I was able to pull a gap on the cars behind, once again my car was not so good at the beginning, and I fell behind the leaders by some 1.5secs. It was a lonely race but, in the final three laps, I pulled the top two in slightly and, as they started to fight over the lead, I thought I would be there to pick up the pieces - except there were no pieces!”
A brace of third place finishes on his debut in the series saw Barker leave Hockenheim with both second in the championship and a useful confidence boost ahead of the start of the 2015 Mobil1 Supercup, which kicks off at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
“I am so happy with two podiums to start the season,” the 24-year old concluded, “I love working with Land Motorsport and have two really easy going team-mates, so the season looks like it is going to be fun! It was also great to spend some time with the guys from MontaPlast, who helped push this deal over the line, and I can’t wait for round two. However, in the meantime, there is the small matter of the opening Supercup race in Barcelona… Bring it on!”