Wednesday 14 March 2018
Ben Barker will return to the FIA World Championship Championship for a third straight season, having again been confirmed as the lead driver for Gulf Racing’s 2018 GTE-Am entry.
The Briton, who opened the season with a second victory in the prestigious Bathurst 12 Hours last month, guided the iconically-liveried #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR to two podium finishes in 2017, and returns to the fold as the team’s ‘Pro Gold’ driver alongside owner Mike Wainwright and an, as yet, unnamed third driver. The trio can expect to face its most competitive campaign to date, with as many as nine cars contesting the closely-fought GTE-Am class, but Barker is excited to be getting his hands on the very latest version of the 911 RSR, which debuted in the GTE-Pro category in 2017.
“It’s great to be able to announce that I’ll be back in the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2018, and back in the familiar surroundings of Gulf Racing as the team embarks on its most intriguing season yet,” Barker noted, “I’m really excited to be leading the team again, and hope that I can help to put the #86 car back on the podium - and, hopefully, the top step this time.
“With that said, it is exciting to know that Gulf Racing will be getting its hands on the latest 911 RSR, which will hopefully make us an even more competitive prospect against the likes of Aston Martin and Ferrari at every circuit. The new car certainly proved its potential in the Pro class last season, and I can’t wait to see what it can do when we finally get it out on track in the coming weeks.”
Dubbed as the ‘biggest evolution in the model’s history’, the latest RSR moves away from Porsche’s famed rear-engined layout by putting its four-litre six-cylinder powerplant in front of the back axle to accommodate a larger rear diffuser in search of significantly more downforce than the previous car. The relocation of the powertrain also improves the RSR's overall weight distribution and comes as part of a more complete overhaul that also includes an all-new structure, suspension and aerodynamics.
After developing its venerable RSR through the first part of 2017, the Gulf team made great strides through the final rounds, appearing on the podium in both Mexico City and Shanghai and narrowly missing out on silverware at a couple of other races. With the new model allied to the team’s unprecedented levels of reliability, Barker is optimistic that the #86 machine will be a contender as the FIA WEC embarks on a unique ‘super season’, running over 14 months and eight rounds, book-ended by two visits to the famed Le Mans 24 Hours.
“The championship is undergoing a radical change in order to put more emphasis on Le Mans, and that has needed a little creative thinking on the organiser’s behalf– but who’s going to complain about a season that has two Le Mans 24 Hours in it?” Barker commented, “I’ll admit that I’m a little gutted that both the Circuit of the Americas and Mexico City are missing from the new schedule, both because I am a big fan of the venues and because the team always seemed to go well there, but the good news – in addition to two trips to Le Mans and Spa-Francorchamps - is that the series gets to race at one of the biggest sportscar meetings of all in Sebring. It’s going to be unusual, but I can’t wait to get started.
“I’m thrilled to have my trio of long-term sponsors – Montaplast, Sacred and CARS – back on board and want to thank Mike and Gulf Racing for putting their trust in me for what will be a great year.”
The opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes place at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend of 4-5 May.