Ben Barker and GR Racing find it tough going in FIA WEC 8 Hours of Portimão
Ben Barker and GR Racing found the going tough in the FIA World Endurance 8 Hours of Portimão .
The team, which features Cambridge-based Barker, team owner Mike Wainwright and Tom Gamble, were looking to put a disappointing start at Spa-Francorchamps behind them, but the weather and circuit conspired against the recommended choice of Michelin tyres.
As temperatues rose, it become more a battle to survive than a fight to the finish on the medium compound rubber.
There were promising signs in the free practice sessions in the GTE-Am class and, in qualifying, Wainwright was lapping just tenths slower than the fastest cars in class.
But race day proved very different.
“Free practice and qualifying aren’t really long enough for anyone to get a real idea of how the race will go, and we were definitely expecting more from Sunday” Barker explained.
“Pre-race testing had led Porsche, Michelin and ourselves to believe the medium tyre was the one to go for at Portimão but, with temperatures soaring on raceday, it quickly became apparent that it would be a long afternoon for all of us.
“Although Mike’s pace in the slightly cooler conditions at the start of the race didn’t tax the tyres too badly, I had two stints on the medium that, for want of a better phrase, were more about surviving than driving.
“Portimao is a non-stop track in terms of its twists and turns and already had an abrasive surface before being refreshed for the F1 event last year. As a result, the tyres were blistering so badly that it was only taking 20 laps or so to burn through the rubber and it was a struggle to stay on track at times.”
Wainwright and Gamble made the best of the situation before Barker was fitted with a set of harder compound tyres for his final run.
With Michelin’s race data suggesting that the option would be better for performance, he duly reeled off a stint that underlined just how different the race could have been, lapping more consistently and on a pace that threatened the fastest GT laps of the entire event.
“It was frustrating to imagine what might have been, but that last run was good for morale — not just mine, but that of the whole team," Barker admitted, as the team finished ninth in class.
“After Spa, we had been hoping for a chance to show what this latest Porsche machine was capable of. In the end, we — and the entire Porsche entry — were somewhat hostage to the tyres for much of the afternoon.
“Mike, Tom and the entire pit crew did their usual exemplary job all weekend.
“A couple of tenths could have seen Mike qualify in the top four, while Tom, in his first full race with the team, showed that he will be a valuable asset going forward.
“Now, we’ll just take those positives on to Monza next month and focus not only on that race, but also our preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
The third round takes place in on the weekend of July 16.