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Ben Barker ready to go the distance at the Le Mans 24 Hours

Linton-based driver Ben Barker at the Six Hours of Spa in the FIA WEC. Picture: Porsche Media (12210158)
Linton-based driver Ben Barker at the Six Hours of Spa in the FIA WEC. Picture: Porsche Media (12210158)

Ben Barker believes Gulf Racing have the pace to make an impact at the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend.

The 27-year-old Linton-based driver will compete with co-drivers Mike Wainwright and Thomas Preining in the #86 Porsche 911 RSR in what is the final stage of the 2018/19 World Endurance Championship.

Barker has felt the car get quicker as the races have passed, and feels that puts them in a strong position heading to France.

The team have shown promise in the last two events – in Sebring and Spa – but difficulties with the pit-stops have meant they have had to settle for fourth and sixth place finishes respectively in the LM GTE Am class.

“At Sebring we were up there as the fastest car,” said Barker. “Spa was a bit of an unknown as it was so crazy.

“Testing for Le Mans went well as we ended the day in P6 in our class, which was the fastest Porsche. We know we have a bit more in the bag in terms of gas.

“It’s comparable to how it felt last year and we had a very fast car. We’re looking good going into the race. We were fifth in the first year in 2016 and that was with no mistakes, but we didn’t have the fastest car.”

Barker and his Gulf Racing team-mates finished 10th last year at Le Mans, but he did set the class’s fastest lap.

Amateur driver Wainwright must spend a minimum of six hours driving so it means Barker and Preining will take on the remaining 18 hours between them.

“We will try to get Mike’s out of the way in the day time so we will do the night shifts,” said Barker.

“You come into refuel, you have to keep focused and you have your engineers to talk to every lap. It’s adrenalin-fuelled so hard to feel tired or sleepy.

“It’s the adrenalin that keeps you awake.”

Barker is optimistic of their chances if they can stay out of trouble, but knows they will face a fierce challenge from the Ferraris, which includes former F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella in the Spirit of Race team.

“Ferrari is going to be strong,” he said. “They were strong last year and have a good balanced car for Le Mans.

“You have the addition of the Ford GT this year and that has not shown its full capability yet and I think they will be fast.

“The Aston Martins are running the older vintage so it’s not the new turbo car but they are always quick on a straight line and there is so much torque in the car.

“There are enough Porsche in the field to get enough balance of performance.”

Barker added: “The Porsche has been quick all year, and was quick last year. The main thing is a clean race and staying out of trouble.

“We all want to finish on the podium and that will happen if there are no mistakes. The key is to focus on each pit-stop at a time and keep as consistent as possible when driving.

“Focus on the now and not the end goal.”

The race starts at 3pm CET on Saturday (June 15).

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