Ben Barker put up a battling performance in adverse conditions to end his Porsche Mobil1 Supercup campaign with sixth place in an Austin double-header badly affected by the presence of Hurricane Patricia.
After a long seven-week break since the championship’s last outing in Italy, which Barker missed after his car was damaged in someone else’s accident, the Briton arrived in Texas buoyed by some strong Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland performances. Despite looking forward to ending his season on a high at the Circuit of the Americas, where he has shone in previous Supercup and ALMS outings, however, the conditions had other ideas, with torrential rain brought on by the passing weather system washing out his hopes of securing a front of the grid qualifying position.
With Formula One taking priority over the weekend’s schedule, any delays naturally had a knock-on effect to the rest of the programme, but the premier series was no better off than its support acts, with sessions being wiped out by the weather on both Friday and Saturday. The Supercup, therefore, suffered from a lack of track time, with practice being cut from 45 minutes to just 25 and qualifying being cancelled altogether, as the times from practice were used to determine the grids for both races.
“Seeing the weather forecast for the weekend, we knew that practice could be critical,” Barker noted, “With the session being shortened, it wasn’t a great one for us, as I had a slipping clutch and new wet tyres that just didn’t work well. As a result, there wasn’t much pace from the #10 machine and, with qualifying being cancelled altogether, the prospect of a decent grid slot was slim. In all honesty, it rained so much all day, qualifying was always a ‘no go’, but it was frustrating not to get more track time, especially at my MOMO Megatron team’s home race.”
When the weather also accounted for race one, which had been due to run after the ultimately aborted F1 qualifying on Saturday afternoon, it left Barker with just one outing to end his season on a high. Starting tenth based on his practice time, the 24-year old Cambridge native knew that his experience of the Circuit of the Americas would be an asset as he attempted to pick up places, but the track remained awash after the weekend’s rain and his progress would have to wait as the field took the start under the safety car.
Once released, however, Barker immediately set about moving up the order, picking his passing moves around the undulating 3.4-mile Austin circuit and avoiding the pit-falls presented by the conditions.
“I wanted to push hard at my teams home race, but it was still really wet,” the former F3 champion confirmed, “I made a move on Come Ledogar on lap one, then set off after for Philipp Frommenweiler, passing him two laps later. I had loads of speed and felt mega with the car, which had much more grip than in practice. That helped me catch series champion Phillipp Eng and, after we battled side-by-side for two laps, I made a move stick coming onto the back straight after a good exit from hairpin.
“Christopher Zoechling was next in my sights and, again, we had a mega door-to-door battle for a lap before I eventually pulled off a pass around the outside of the triple-right of turns 16-18 - we had a synchronised sideways moment, but I came out on top! After that, the gap to the next car was too big to catch in the time we had left, but I was pulling Connor de.Phillippi in even as we took the chequered flag.”
With his parallel Porsche campaigns now completed, Barker will take a short break from competition to focus on his plans for 2016.
“Sixth place isn’t how I wanted to end the season but, overall, it was a solid performance with good racecraft, especially in tricky conditions. Big thanks to Team MOMO Partrax and all my supporters - SACRED, RK Print, CARS, Zebrano Bars and MontaPlast - for an eventful year. There were some great moments and P9 in the championship isn’t so bad considering I missed the two races at Monza. Next season starts now….”