DATE ADDED: Tuesday 19th May 2015
Ben Barker put a sizeable tick on his personal ‘bucket list’ over the weekend as he added a race on the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife to his career achievements.
The event, round two of the 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Germany campaign, supported the famous Nurburgring 24 Hours, but gave Barker and his fellow competitors four laps of the tortuous 24.4km blending the old and new Nurburgring venues. While Barker was making his competition debut on the circuit, the majority of his rivals had lived and breathed the Nordschleife throughout their careers, adding to the task facing the 24-year old Porsche specialist even before the fickle Eifel Mountain weather played its part.
Notorious for its ability to switch from sun to rain – and even throw in snow and hail at a moment’s notice – the Nurburgring lived up to its reputation from the start of the weekend, with Barker’s first practice session rendered practically useless as the conditions closed in.
“This was an event I had been looking forward to for years, so it was shame it started as a damp squib,” the Briton noted, “My previous experience of the Nordschleife was limited to just ten laps in my Cup car two weeks before the race but, with lots of road car traffic on the circuit, it was difficult to get into a rhythm and find the flow of the track.
“Unfortunately for me, the one hour of practice was cut down to just one flying lap. My run started in the dry, but light drizzle then turned to heavier rain after my exploratory lap, so I pushed as much as my eyes told me to, frantically remembering where the track went and where its infamous characteristics were! Knowing that further running was pointless as there was no rain forecast for the remainder of the weekend, I had to be happy with a time that, while it was twelve seconds off the leader, was set in poor conditions and with a lot of potential left in the bag.”
With little running under his belt heading into an hour of qualifying, Barker spent the early part of the session building greater confidence in the cockpit. On his first set of tyres, the Cambridge native posted a time of 8min 45secs, before improving by four seconds on his next run. That lap was good enough for P13, and Barker was optimistic that he would have gone faster next time around.
“On my second lap, I was a whole three seconds up on my time going into Fuchsrohre, about a quarter of the way round the circuit, only for a double yellow flag to ruin the run,” the Porsche Supercup regular sighed, “As I backed off fully due to the incident, I was confident that, with still a lot of the track to cover, I could have been at least five seconds quicker than my original time, which would have put me into the top six....”
As the session never recovered its green status, Barker was left to contemplate a 13th-place start, but remained confident that he could catch and run with the leaders. A good start gained one place, before the Briton made a move stick on ‘Ring king’ Nicki Thiim for P11. Quickly hunting down championship leader Christian Engelhart gained Barker another place as he got past on the newer section of the circuit, putting him tenth on the road, but comfortably in touch with the battle for sixth. An attempt to wrest ninth from Matteo Cairoli was rebuffed, only for Klaus Bachler to make a mistake further up the road and gift the Land Motorsport driver the position anyway. Any further progress was halted on lap three, however, and the tight nature of the layout prevented Barker from regaining positions over the remainder of the race.
“Entering ‘green hell’ on lap three, I was all over Cairoli and Jeffrey Schmidt but, at the exit of the notorious Brunnchen section, I hit the gravel slightly and lost position to Nicki,” he admitted, “With only one lap left, I closed the gap but was never really close enough to have a real crack at him again.
“However, I still crossed the line in ninth place as another driver picked up a penalty for speeding and I know that my pace was good for a place in the top six as I lapped just 2.5secs off the fastest time whilst in traffic! More importantly, I got better and better with each and every lap, finally being bang on the pace. Knowing that twelve drivers on the grid had all done the Nurburgring 24 Hours and/or the VLN endurance races many times, beating or battling with them was good for me.
“Thanks to Land Motorsport and all my sponsors for making this a great ‘Ring debut - consider that box ticked!”