‘Baku to the future’ as Barker shows Supercup potential
Britain’s Ben Barker capitalised on a late call-up to the inaugural Buku City Challenge GT event by showing that he has the pace to live with the Porsche Supercup regulars he hopes to be racing against next season.
The 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB runner-up had thought that his racing year was over, and was already dreaming of a return to winter training in Australia, when he received a summons from Konrad Motorsport, which had been left in a hole by half of its expected driver line-up not being able to make it to Azerbaijan. With less than 24 hours notice, but with an opportunity to be grabbed, the 20-year old was on the next available flight to partner fellow Brit Archie Hamilton at the wheel of one of the team’s Porsche Supercup machines.
“It’s not every day you get a call from one of the best Porsche teams in the world, or to race on a street circuit in the former USSR,” Barker admitted, “I’d heard that people at Konrad had been keeping an eye on my results this year, and I’ve made no secret of my desire to move up to the Supercup next season, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to show what I could do.”
The end-of-season event, staged on a 16-corner circuit through the heart of Baku, attracted the cream, not only of Supercup teams, but also of the FIA GT championship, as well as stars from other disciplines, such as former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve. The Supercup cars would run as a sub-class in the main City Challenge GT event, but would still pitch Barker against the likes of Nicki Thiim, Christian Engelhardt, Phillipp Eng and Michael Christensen, providing a useful benchmark for his pace whilst beaming his efforts to an estimated 250 million television viewers in 120 countries around the world.
With each driver in the pairing getting a 30-minute qualifying session and short sprint race to determine the starting order for the one-hour main event, Barker and Hamilton had time to acclimatise to their new surroundings, with the former proving the quicker of the two as their combined results proved enough to claim third on the grid. Taking over for the second half of the showpiece, Barker had some work to do on the run to the chequered flag, but had battled through to second in class when his endeavour was rewarded by the leader running into mechanical problems and elevating the #21 Konrad machine to top spot.
Crucially, the Briton’s lap times were within a fraction of his more experienced opposition, despite it being his first outing in a full Supercup car, impressing those around him.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” Barker admitted, “Everything was a bit last minute, but that didn’t show when we were on track. It was great to be back on a street circuit for the first time since I was racing in the Australian Carrera Cup, and I think my experience there clearly helped get to grips with the track. Konrad gave us a great car, as expected, and the chance to race against so many established names gave me a chance to measure my progress in this discipline.
“I’m delighted with my performance, particularly being able to match the times of the Supercup regulars, and obviously finishing at the front of the class was a special moment. If this is my last event of 2012, it was a great way to go out.”
Barker will now return to work on his programme for 2013, which he hopes will bring a full-time move to the F1-supporting Porsche Supercup.