Monday 9th May 2016
Ben Barker and the Gulf Racing team were denied a shot at the podium in round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps as a rear light problem cut short a recovery drive by the series rookie.
Barker enjoyed a positive second outing in the series, with his pace in the #86 Porsche 991 RSR he shares with Adam Carroll and Mike Wainwright comparing well to those around him in the GTE-AM class as he brought the Gulf Racing entry back into the battle for a possible top three finish. However, a problem with the car’s right-rear brake light necessitated an unscheduled pit-stop towards the end of the Briton’s stint, and the five minutes lost while repairs were made ultimately cost the team its chance of silverware heading into the final stages of the six-hour Belgian event.
Barker had taken over driving duties with the Gulf car a lap down on the class leader, but a consistently fast spell behind the wheel saw him reduce the deficit, bringing the #86 back onto the lead lap and closing on the battle for second and third positions. The Cambridge native had already overcome a drive-thru’ penalty assessed after the team accrued a number of track limits violations and was within 25secs of the podium places when he had to pit.
“Of course it’s disappointing not to have been able to challenge for the top three, but there are so many positives to take away from the weekend,” Barker insisted, “My pace in the car, and the performance of the car in general, was a match for any of the other Porsches in the class and I’m sure that we would have been in contention at the chequered flag.
“The penalty was unfortunate, but it didn’t really interrupt my progress too much and I was still closing on the cars in front when I had to pit. The brake light problem didn’t affect the performance of the car either, but had to be dealt with, so it’s just one of those things. After not getting the chance to race in round one, getting behind the wheel and helping see the team through to the end of the race is a definite step forward. Big thanks have to go to all those that helped rebuild the car after Silverstone – it was a mega effort and I just wish we could have got something to show for it.”
The pit-stop ultimately consigned the Gulf Racing trio to fifth place in the final result, but there were promising signs throughout the weekend as the team prepares for its Le Mans 24 Hours debut next month. The French classic serves as round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship, but remains the blue riband event for sportscar racers, and Barker, buoyed by a testing performance that saw him lapping on ‘qualifying pace’ on new tyres, is confident that the team can show well.
“I think we can go to Le Mans in optimistic mood,” the 25-year old confirmed, “We might not yet have the performance of the class leaders but, as a team, we are improving all the time. We learned a lot after being able to go the distance at Spa, especially on the communications side, and we are definitely amongst the quickest Porsche crews out there. I was delighted with the pace I was able to show this weekend, not just over one lap but consistently through my stint in the race, and I’m looking forward to returning to Le Mans, where I have won before.”
Barker’s next outing with Gulf Racing will be at round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours, over 18-19 June.