Barker continues winning streak at Silverstone
Ben Barker strengthened his hold on second position in the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB as he claimed a fifth successive race win in the penultimate round on the hallowed tarmac of Silverstone.
Carrying the momentum of four back-to-back victories at Knockhill and Rockingham, the Parr Motorsport ace began the weekend as he meant to go on, topping both pre-event test sessions in cloudy conditions, but knew that the competition would be as close as ever as the year approached its end with championship honours and bragging rights on the line. When qualifying got underway at lunch-time on Saturday, though, it was the chrome-coloured #20 back at the top of the timesheets as Barker confirmed his front-running status with a best lap of 56.340secs to see off the challenges of both the reigning champion and current points leader.
The PCCGB’s quirky qualifying system, however, uses each driver’s second-fastest time to determine the grid for race two and, in contrast to the past two weekends – where he had claimed pole for both outings – Barker was down in sixth spot when the starting orders were announced.
“We had a problem with the tyre on the left rear and, although we managed to secure pole for race one, we just couldn’t get rid of the snap oversteer that it was causing,” the 20-year old revealed, “The left rear is the most heavily worked tyre on the car around Silverstone’s National layout and it cost us heavily in terms of the grid for race two.”
Once Sunday’s early morning fog had begun to lift, Barker put himself into the ideal position to control proceedings in race one by making the perfect start to the 28-lap encounter. Despite having reigning champion James Sutton dogging his every move, the former Australian F3 champion remained calm under pressure, maintaining a gap of around a second until the closing stages, before eventually coming home seven-tenths clear.
“Being out front, with a clear track ahead of you, makes life so much easier – even if we had fog to contend with!” Barker admitted, “The race was pretty straightforward, and I always felt that I had James under control. He doesn’t make many mistakes, so I knew that I had to be equally tidy, and fortunately I was.”
Unable to avoid using the tyres employed for qualifying in race two, the Parr team decided to swap the problematic part to the right rear, hoping that its influence on the car’s handling would be more limited, but Barker knew that he faced a much tougher proposition nonetheless. Despite another solid start, it was clear that he was struggling with the car but, as race one had shown, passing around the shorter Silverstone layout would be difficult even without problems, and the #20 CARS-backed machine remained sixth until Sutton slowed.
Barker had Sam Tordoff, his biggest rival for second in the standings, right on his bumper as they then duelled over fifth on the road and it appeared that that would be his lot until the driver in second place was handed a late penalty for exceeding the track limits. The additional time was enough to drop the offender to seventh, promoting Barker to fourth after the flag had fallen.
“Race two was a lot tougher,” he admitted, “We had some concerns over the tyre – the handling still proved to be a problem in the one left-hand turn, which confirmed that there was definitely something wrong – and I was struggling to get the power down. A gap soon appeared between myself and the car in front and, on top of that, I had Sam Tordoff in my mirrors for the entire 28 laps, so I did well to hold on to my position. It’s frustrating not to have been able to move forward, but first and fourth places this weekend is still a good return.”
Beating Tordoff in both races enhanced Barker’s advantage in second overall, but Michael Meadows’ victory in race two ensured that he accumulated sufficient points to secure the title at his third attempt. Both Meadows and Sutton were quick to pay tribute to Barker’s efforts in 2012, with the former admitting that, had the #20 been a bigger threat at the start of the year, his run to the championship would not have been as comfortable.
“Obviously, I want to pass my congratulations on to Michael for winning the championship, and thank him for the positive comments,” Barker said, “It’s true that, had we not had a couple of setbacks early on, I would have been a lot closer to him in the points, and the title race would probably be going all the way to Brands Hatch.
“However, being in my first year in the Carrera Cup, I couldn’t have dreamt of a top three position in the standings, but I’m excited about the final round, and getting back to winning ways. Winning five on the trot is mega but, if I can take both races at Brands Hatch, I’ll pass Michael’s tally for the year, which will definitely be something to shout about!”
The final round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB takes place at Brands Hatch over the weekend of 20-21 October.