DATE ADDED: Monday 7th September 2015
Ben Barker showed an improvement in pace at the latest Porsche Mobil1 Supercup round, only to find that his luck was out as the series visited the Autodromo Nazionale at Monza.
The Briton arrived in Italy on the back of two scoring finishes at Spa-Francorchamps and immediately clicked with the pista magica, putting his Momo Megatron car amongst the fastest on track during practice. Buoyed by the potential shown by the #10 machine, Barker went into qualifying confident that he could secure good grid positions for the double-header event, and duly lapped just 0.3s off pole position pace.
With his two fastest laps being drawn to set the grid for the respective Saturday and Sunday races, however, the closely-matched nature of the Supercup field meant that the 24-year old would line up ninth and sixth respectively, but Barker knew that he still had a couple of aces up his sleeve.
“I was very happy with my pace, especially as I was one of the few not to get a tow in qualifying,” he reported, “Everyone ahead of me benefited from running in someone else’s slipstream, so to be just three-tenths off the best time was a pretty good effort. On top of that, I only used two sets of tyres, whereas the majority of the frontrunners ran three sets, so I had a new set of tyres available for Sunday’s race.”
Coming from row five of a 40-strong grid meant that Barker would have to be more aware than usual heading into the first corner, with Monza’s notorious Rettifilio chicane renowned for taking no prisoners. A good getaway elevated the Briton a couple of positions by the time he reached the right-left combination but, as the field bunched up, he found himself the unwitting victim of the concertina effect, being hit from behind and pushed into the car ahead.
Worse was to come, however. The double impact left the red-and-black #10 machine with a burst radiator, and Barker, knowing that his race was already run, was looking for a safe place to pull off when unsighted team-mate Sam Power ran into the rear of his car at high speed, shunting it into the Curva Grande gravel trap with heavy damage and leaving the Cambridge native to limp away from the cockpit.
“The chicane is notorious for collisions and I was just in the right place at the wrong time,” Barker explained, “After that, I was just trying to keep out of the way and find somewhere to leave the car so that it didn’t interrupt the race. Water from the radiator was spraying onto the windscreen so my visibility was impaired but I didn’t want to just pull off into the gravel as that would probably have brought out the safety car.
“However, as I looked in my mirror, I saw one car just manage to avoid me and I guess Sam, who was following him, had no time to react. I was doing around 100kph at that time and he was probably doing twice that speed, so it was a big impact. I was lucky to escape with just bruised heels, a stiff neck and a bit of a headache, but the car was a write-off…”
With the Momo-Megatron team unable to repair the damage to his car – which included a holed manifold and bent chassis - Barker was forced to sit out Sunday’s race, a particularly galling development given his qualifying pace and the new set of tyres sitting in the garage.
“I hate not racing at the best of times, but to be at the circuit and not be able to get out on it was horrible,” Barker sighed, “It was the biggest shunt I have had for a long time, but I would have been able to drive. Sadly, the same could not be said for the car…
“It’s especially frustrating as there were a lot of positives to draw from the weekend, particularly the pace we showed in qualifying. Starting from sixth on Sunday, and with new tyres on the car, I know a podium would have been a possibility and I was looking forward to getting back out there as the car felt a lot better this weekend.”
Just one Supercup round remains, with a double-header event supporting the USGP in Austin next month, and Barker is looking forward to returning to a venue where he has shone in the past.
“I love the Circuit of the Americas, and I’m sure we can get a couple of good results there,” he concluded, “I’m not going to dwell on the ‘what ifs’ from Monza and am totally focused on getting out there and going for it, chasing the race wins, just as I am in my Carrera Cup Germany campaign.”
It is the Carrera Cup that takes Barker’s focus next as he returns to the Land Motorsport team for this weekend’s round at Oschersleben (11-13 September).