Ben Barker relishing start of new FIA World Endurance Championship
Ben Barker cannot wait to get behind the wheel of a “different beast” for GR Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Linton-based driver has had to bide his time to get back on the race track as the pandemic has had an impact on the global motor racing calendar.
Barker will get the green light in Belgium this week, with the Total Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 1, and it will be in the latest version of the 2020/21 Porsche RSR.
In previous years, Barker has spent the winter months globe-trotting, with victories in Australia and Dubai, but that has not been possible in 2021.
“It’s been pretty quiet with the global situation and also the fact that there wasn’t any racing,” said Barker, who turned 30 last week.
“It was unfortunate because Bathurst was cancelled. I was all set to go to Australia again and race the 12-Hour in February but that was canned so it’s been quite a long off-season with not much driving.
“I had something lined up, but unfortunately it fell through quite close to the date so no Dubai this time but hopefully next year. We did a couple of days testing in December last year with the new car so that was the last time we were out as a team.”
You can sense the enthusiasm to get the six-fixture calendar under way, and it is heightened by the prospect of driving the new model for the team – which was used in the pro class last year – in the LMGTE-AM category.
“It’s been quite a long time but we’re all ready for it and we’ve got the new RSR which is the 2020/21 car which is a different beast in itself,” said Barker.
“It’s amazing how Porsche keep progressing and getting better at building cars.
“It’s a new car, it’s mid-engine so similar to the previous generation that I was driving. It’s just the aerodynamic package is slightly different. It’s got better high-speed aerodynamic grip, essentially that’s the advantage of the new car in comparison to the old one. It’s a mega bit of kit.”
Mike Wainwright is the amateur driver and team owner of GR Racing, which was known as Gulf Racing until the end of last season when it ended its association with Gulf Oil.
Barker and Wainwright will be joined by new silver driver Tom Gamble this year.
“He has come out of single seaters and won the Autosport award,” said Barker.
“He is doing prototypes this year but is also doing WEC with us.
“We’ve got a good line-up and most of the same mechanics again so the team is all familiar. It’s the ingredients to do quite well really.”
With the new-look team and car, the target is to try to achieve more podium finishes, which in turn would boost their championship prospects.
They have been testing in Spa on Monday and Tuesday in the hopes of getting off to a flying start.
“We had a podium last year and we were close to getting a few more so I think more regularly on the podium would be good,” said Barker.
“GT-AM is even more competitive this year, I think there are about 13 or 14 cars.
“We never really focus on the championship because obviously the races sort the championship out.
“We focus race by race, getting the best results we can and ultimately that’s podiums which is what we’re really aiming for.
“If we could get our first win, that would be fantastic.”