Ben Barker is looking to emulate his predecessors in the Australian F3 Championship, having completed his hoped-for graduation with frontrunners Team BRM.
Despite having contested just one season in single-seaters after running in the Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain in 2009, the 18-year old quickly set his sights on moving up to the 'slicks and wings' world of F3, but admits that he did not necessarily have Australia on his radar after first testing one of the 210bhp machines with Team West-Tec in the UK.
A recent outing at Winton, however, allowed Barker to demonstrate his potential, as he lapped just over half a second from the pole time set, in the same car, at the circuit's 2009 championship round.
“I only came out to Australia to use the warm weather and contacts I have here to prepare for the 2010 season, but managed to arrange a couple of tests with a view to getting a headstart on F3 before returning to the UK,” Barker reveals, “But the test with Team BRM went so well that we ended up doing a deal to contest the Australian series instead.”
Team BRM is among the most successful teams in Australian F3 history, having taken five titles in the past eight years, and Barker will look to become the third Briton in succession – and fourth overall – to succeed with Bronte Rundle's outfit, following in the footsteps of Ben Clucas, James Winslow and, most recently, Joey Foster.
He also hopes to benefit from the continued guidance of Winslow, who mentored him through his Formula Ford campaign and persuaded him to make the trip 'down under' to join him for off-season training.
“I will be living in Sydney next year, and look forward to continuing to work with James, who has been a big help in my career so far,” Barker confirms, “I'm also looking forward to racing the 2007-spec Dallara and, hopefully, emulating what James – and both Ben and Joey – achieved in flying the flag for Britain in Australian F3.
“The Winton test was very encouraging, as I ended up doing a 1min 18.8secs lap and Joey Foster did a time of 1.18.1 when he took pole in June. I think that, if I had had new tyres, I could have been closer to that sort of time, but the most important thing was that I learned a lot about F3 and got on well with the team.”
Barker also revealed that he is hoping to make his Australian race debut in the familiar surroundings of Formula Ford, using BRM's 'junior' team to contest the supporting events at the Formula One grand prix in Melbourne in March. He has already impressed at the wheel of a five-litre V8 Supercar, having run Winslow closest during a recent test with Greg Murphy Racing at Winton in November, but has his immediate sights set on moving up the open-wheel ladder.
“It will be good to acclimatise in a category I am familiar with, but I feel I have learnt a lot from Formula Ford and can take that to F3 for 2010,” he adds, “My long-term aim is still V8 Supercars, but I am not closing the door on single-seaters just yet – I still have plenty of years left before I have to consider making that sort of switch and the deal with Team BRM allows me to keep my options open for the future.”