Ben Barker earns top-four finish in FIA World Endurance Championship race
Encouraging display from Gulf Racing team at Fuji Speedway
Ben Barker claimed a hard-earned top-four finish in the FIA World Endurance Championship race at Fuji Speedway.
The Cambridge-based driver was in the Gulf Racing Porsche in the hotly-contested GTE-Am class as the championship resumed after a two-month hiatus.
Heavy overnight rain undid Gulf’s initial game-plan, and faster drying conditions than expected left them to mark time before changing tyres.
“We chose the full wet as the track was very wet at the start of the race,” said Barker. “But, with the surface drying faster than we expected, those cars on the intermediate tyre came into their own.
“It was a shame, as our initial decision had allowed me to gain positions early on, getting as high as second on the road before the conditions changed.”
The safety car stopped their drop down the order, and then a switch to a set of slick tyres proved fruitful as Barker got in a battle for the lead with former F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella.
“Giancarlo eventually passed me when I got held up in traffic, but I spent the last six laps of my stint trying to get the position back, with a few door-to-door moments,” said Barker. “I was safe in second, and pitted from there, before Mike [Wainwright, the team owner] drove well to grab the lead back from the Ferrari after its own driver change.
“We were running on borrowed time, however, as Mike found himself on track at the same time as most of the professional drivers, and gradually dropped back over the next couple of hours.”
Newcomer Thomas Priening then got his first taste of the WEC by lifting the Gulf car back into fourth position.
Barker had mixed emotions with the result, saying: “Overall, it was a positive weekend for the team, although we definitely have some work to do with the car and tyres.
“There is still some old tyre pace to find for Shanghai, but we are confident of doing better there and, hopefully, grabbing a podium.”
Next stop is round five of the FIA WEC at Shanghai International Circuit from November 16 to 18.