DATE ADDED: Monday 28th September 2015
Ben Barker’s luck showed no sign of changing at the penultimate Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland round of the season, but his pace in the #89 Land Motorsport entry provided cause for optimism for the future.
Having picked up strong points finishes last time out at Oschersleben, including a return to the top four in race one, the Briton arrived at the Nurburgring in confident mood, hoping to end his season on a high by challenging for race wins over the final two double-headers. However, his plans were to be upset from the very first session…
Barker had been setting promising times early in the lone practice session but had only completed eight lap before he started to suffer difficulties with his gearbox, which suddenly refused to shift down, leaving the Montaplast-backed #89 stuck in fifth. Attempts to rectify the problem proved fruitless, and Barker was unable to prevent himself slipping down the order.
With enough time to fit a new gearbox for qualifying, however, the Briton remained confident of being able to show his true pace – only for a similar problem to rear its head and end his session before it had truly begun…
“I was happy with the car despite only being able to complete a few laps in practice, and was optimistic for qualifying after the hard work the team put in to change the gearbox,” Barker said, “So, to have another issue with the new ‘box before I could even set a qualifying time was incredible. Porsche assures me that there was no link between the problems, so I must have been extremely unlucky to have them occur as they did! I kept going out in the hope that the problem would clear, but there was no way to do a flying lap, so I was mildly frustrated to say the least…”
Relegated to the back of the22-car grid for both races, Barker knew that he had his work cut out, but remained determined to make up as much ground as he could to demonstrate what might have been possible had he been able to start closer to the front. With his car working well, the Cambridge native was quickly on the move, picking off the cars ahead of him with regularity as he worked his way back up the order. Although navigating his way through the traffic allowed the leaders to get away, Barker bridged the gap to latch onto the battle for a top ten spot and, having picked off the rapid Robert Renauer, set about challenging Carrera Cup Asia frontrunner Chris van der Drift and Land team-mate Connor de Phillippi. Getting a run on van der Drift into the final corner, the two cars ran side-by-side to the chequered flag, with Barker missing out by just half a tenth.
“It was a great run through the lower half of the field and I legitimately picked off ten cars as there were no accidents and no safety car periods, so my pace was good,” the 24-year old pointed out, “Once in clear air, I was amongst the quickest cars on track and came from quite a way back to close the gap to the top ten runners, but probably needed a couple more laps to make my way through them as well. I thought I had van der Drift on the last lap, but came up a few inches short…”
Saturday’s race result meant little when the grid for race two formed up on Sunday morning, but Barker was confident that he could again come through the field to challenge for decent points. Once more, the former F3 champion was good to his word and rapidly picked up places to be running 14th approaching mid-distance, before his misfortune returned to deny any further progress.
“I was able to carry Saturday’s pace into Sunday’s race and the car was feeling really good,” Barker reported, “I’d picked off eight drivers in less than ten laps when I caught up to Niclas Kentenich and, although I was definitely quicker than him, I had to plan my move carefully. The opportunity finally came when he ran wide going into the last corner but, as I was taking my normal line, he came back across the track and made heavy contact with the side of my car, ripping the left rear tyre off the rim and ending my race…
“I don’t know whether he didn’t see me or just made a mistake, but it was the end of my race. I suppose that’s what happens when you have to come from the back of the grid, but I was in the same situation in race one and van der Drift gave me just enough room to race cleanly….”
With three weeks before the final round of the German domestic series, at Hockenheim over 16-18 October, Barker will gather himself for one final assault on the podium.
“I started the year in the top three at Hockenheim, so I know what’s possible,” he concluded, “We came to Nurburgring feeling like it was a fresh start and in positive mood and we’ll carry that over to the finale. I’m frustrated that I couldn’t show the progress that we had made with the car this weekend, but there is good spirit in the Land team and I’m 99% certain we’ll have a trouble-free weekend at Hockenheim. I’m thinking positive and only looking forward.”