DATE ADDED: Monday 25th May 2015
Ben Barker made the most of a strong qualifying performance and stellar start to claim his first Porsche Mobil1 Supercup podium of 2015 on the streets of Monaco.
The Momo-Megatron driver has a record of success in the Principality, having followed up a victory in the 2012 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique with two solid Supercup appearances in 2013 and’14. Anticipating another strong performance after recent good form in both the Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, Barker’s confidence showed immediately as he held top spot for much of Thursday’s opening practice session.
“Practice was half wet, half dry,” he noted, referring to the tricky conditions that remained after the second F1 session, “I left the pit-lane and pushed from the beginning, purely to try and bring my tyre pressures up as quickly as possible, but that effort saw me sit P1 for nearly the whole session! However, the last lap was always going to be the quickest as the track dried and that’s when I hit traffic…”
The age-old Monaco problem of too many cars in a confined space also came back to haunt Barker in qualifying as, having set an initial time just two-tenths of a second off provisional pole, a more promising lap was spoiled right at the end.
“Again, I had set a time that was pretty good, but I knew I could go quicker,” the 24-year old related, “I ran a second set of tyres towards the end and was on a really good lap until I hit traffic at the final corner. It’s particularly frustrating as I was four-tenths up on my previous time - which was good enough for P4 - and, had I got through that last turn without being held up, I would have been on pole! I guess that’s the nature of the beast….”
Nevertheless, starting on the outside of row two, even on a narrow grid like Monaco’s, offered the chance of better in the race, and Barker was determined to make the most of the opportunity as early as possible.
“Starting P4, all I had my eyes set on was a podium!” the Cambridge native admitted, “Monaco is a special place for a podium and I wanted to be part of it. I focused on getting the best start possible and, having accomplished that by going for the outside of T1, I knew I had to hold the inside line for Casino.
“I saw Christian [Engelhart] coming up alongside me on the right, but knew he had braked too late as I braked really late! When he rubbed the wall, I held P3 and was then all over the back of [Philipp] Eng and Jaap [van Lagen]. I was pushing the two guys ahead of me for the next six laps and we all pulled a gap over fourth of around 2.5secs - until the safety car came out!"
Spending four laps behind the safety car meant that the Supercup field only raced for another six but, again, Barker was quickly on the attack as he looked to gain further places.
“I was always able to pressure the guys in front of me but, not wanting to throw away the podium position by taking silly risks, I just couldn’t find a gap to pass Eng for P2 and had to settle for third," the Briton admitted, "However, it’s my first Supercup podium of 2015 and I couldn’t think of a better place to do it - I am delighted with the result!”
Round three of the 2015 Porsche Mobil1 Supercup takes place at the Red Bull Ring in Austria over the weekend of 19-21 June.