Podium return confirms second overall for Barker
Ben Barker capped a strong finish to the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB season by returning to the podium and wrapping up second place overall as the year concluded at a wet Brands Hatch.
Knowing that he needed two strong results to continue his charge up the points table and finish the year as ‘best of the rest’ behind the recently-crowned champion, Barker got his preparations off to the best possible start by topping a pre-event test, despite tricky conditions on the famous Brands Hatch GP layout. When qualifying came around, however, the closely-matched Carrera Cup field was shuffled enough to leave the distinctive chrome-coloured Parr Motorsport Porsche on row two for Sunday’s final double-header.
“We didn’t quite piece together a quick enough lap for pole, and the competition is so tough that the smallest gap means that you are three or four positions off pole,” Barker noted after posting fourth and third places on the grid, “We’re only a tenth off the pace so we know the car is good, and it should be wet on Sunday, which could make things interesting…”
Raceday duly dawned wet, but the initial set-up of the #20 machine left Barker battling a tail-happy car for the duration of the 17 laps. Running in traffic throughout, the 20-year old was unable to preserve his fourth place, dropping to fifth by the chequered flag, while his main rival for second in the standings closed in with a podium finish.
Knowing that he needed to finish in the top four to keep hold of his impressive championship position, series rookie Barker made the most of a set-up change carried out between races to make a move for second place on lap two. Although contact was made with race one winner Jonas Gelzinis, both cars continued, and Barker, revelling in the improved handling of his CARS Europe-sponsored machine, was able to open a gap over his pursuers. With only his nearest points rival ahead of him, the incentive was there to press on, but the former Australian F3 champion opted to keep his rival in sight rather than risk throwing away a season’s work with a moment of impetuosity.
“It was a tense race,” Barker admitted, “The conditions were very tricky and it would have been easy to push too hard and ruin what has been a strong end to the year with even a small mistake. I knew I couldn’t afford to drop out of the top four, and made an early move to ensure that I had a cushion. Graham Hill Bend isn’t the easiest place to pass, and it was a bit tight, but we made it through and, from there, the car was great.”
Second place in the race was enough to deny winner Sam Tordoff the overall runners-up spot by eight points, and left Barker delighted with his achievement.
“I’m over the moon with P2 in my first year in the series,” he insisted, “Not many people can say that they’ve done that. We’ve definitely had a strong end to the season, with five wins in a row between Knockhill and Silverstone, and it was really only a case of inexperience that stopped us challenging for the title. Had the results at Donington Park and Snetterton gone our way, rather than slipping through our fingers, I honestly believe I would have been here fighting for the championship, rather than second place.
“However, it has been a mega year overall, and I have learned more this season than at any point in my career. There is so much young talent in the Carrera Cup GB that the level of competition has been higher than anywhere I have raced before – qualifying is harder as you need to wring every last tenth out of the car, and the racing has been closer and tougher, with everyone on the limit, than anything I have experienced. It’s been a great year.”
With five race wins in 2012, Barker’s tally was second only to champion Michael Meadows, and underlined the close relationship he forged with the returning Parr Motorsport team, which also yielded five pole positions and four fastest laps.
“There have been a lot of ups, and only a few downs, so I have to be grateful to Parr for everything we have achieved together,” the BRDC Superstar confirmed, “With the support I have had from CARS Europe, Rossiters and Driver Development Programme – which enabled me to contest a complete season – I have had a great ‘team’ behind me, and I can look forward to the winter with confidence.”
The off-season will now see Barker working hard on his programme for 2013, which he hopes will see him competing with the world’s best Porsche racers in the high-profile – and internationally televised – Porsche Supercup.
“We will be searching for the partners we need to make that happen,” Barker said of his dream of joining the F1 support series, “but I think that I have shown that I can be competitive wherever I race and I’m looking forward to showing that on a bigger stage next season.”