3 June 2014
Barker creates strong impression on IMSA debut
US sportscar rookie Ben Barker carried his strong Porsche Supercup form into the IMSA/TUSC round on the streets of Detroit.
Ben Barker created a strong impression on his first foray into sportscar racing in America, even though his debut in the IMSA Tudor United Sportscar Championship failed to produce the result he and GB Autosport desired.
Drafted in to replace GB regular Michael Avenatti, Barker faced a baptism of fire as the TUSC teams accompanied the Verizon Indycar Series to the streets of Detroit's Belle Isle Park, renowned for its bumpy track surface and notorious concrete barriers. Despite his lack of familiarity with the venue, the Briton acquitted himself well by posting the third fastest time during his first practice session in the Tully's Coffee-backed Porsche 911 GT Cup America.
“The car is very similar to my regular Porsche Mobil1 Supercup machine, except that you can play around more with the set-up,” Barker explained, “I was happy to be on the pace in testing, especially I was running on old tyres when I put the #81 into third sport on the timesheet.”
Despite the optimism in the GB Autosport camp, qualifying proved to be disappointment, with regular pilot Damien Faulkner only able to post the 13th-fastest time after a change in track conditions brought about by Indycar qualifying between sessions, leaving Barker with a tough task as he started the race on Saturday afternoon.
Again, however, the 23-year old showed the ability that has already brought victories at Bathurst and Brands Hatch, as well as a maiden Supercup podium, in 2014, carving through the GTD field to run as high as sixth before handing the car over to Faulkner for the second half of the 100-minute race. The Irishman, meanwhile, was not so fortunate and, after a delay at the handover dropped the Tully's car to eighth on the road, was the victim of contact from behind that sent him into the barriers.
“It's a shame the race ended as it did,” Barker lamented, “We had good pace in the car and I reckon a top six finish was looking likely.
“A short race like this makes qualifying even more important, especially at a track like Detroit, and I was much quicker than the group of cars battling for third in front of me, but did not want to risk contact on what was a very tight – and very bumpy –
layout. Damien took over after the pit-stop dropped us to P8, but got hit into the barrier. Although it wasn't a big impact, it was enough to drop us to tenth, which is where we finished.”
Despite the frustrating finish, Barker enjoyed his first taste of competition on the other side of the Atlantic, and admitted that he was already looking to return.
“It was my first time in the USA and many people told me it was a shame that it had to be in Detroit, but as long as I was racing, I'd say it was perfect!” he joked, “A big thanks to GB Autosport for the invite and I hope to go out for more races very soon – particularly as the team is sponsored by a coffee company, combining my two passions in one!”
With a three-week hiatus before the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup resumes at the Red Bull Ring in Austria (20-22 June), Barker will continue his whirlwind global tour by returning to the Parr Motorsport line-up for next weekend's Porsche Carrera Cup GB round at Le Mans (11-14 June).
“I am very excited about the opportunity to return to the PCCGB, particularly as the series will be supporting the Le Mans 24 Hours,” the Briton admitted, “There will be 60 cars on the grid, so it will be a tough one-off race, but hopefully it will be a good introduction to La Sarthe and we can come away with another strong result.”
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