Ben Barker at Siverstone

Ben Barker continued his run of top ten finishes in the 2013 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, equalling his best result of the season as the globe-trotting series touched down on home soil at Silverstone in support of the British Grand Prix.

After more than a month away from competition while the F1 circus made its annual trip to Canada, Barker was champing at the bit ahead of practice, but knew that the 45-minute session would be a mix of learning the circuit and attempting to fine-tune his Team Bleekemolen entry to the quick Silverstone layout. 

Despite being one of three British drivers entered for round three of the season, Barker had yet to drive the extended grand prix circuit in anger, but his hopes of progress early in the weekend were stymied by some typical English weather which, having been fair immediately before the Supercup runners left the pit-lane, quickly turned into steady drizzle that left the track surface greasy rather than either completely wet or dry.

“The session was something of a write-off,” Barker sighed, “The weather was our worst nightmare, being neither one thing or the other, and I missed the single two-lap window in which others set a decent time. As a result, we were further down the order than our pace probably warranted, and we didn’t learn very much for the weekend either.”

Qualifying on Saturday morning proved to be only a little better for the 21-year old, as he struggled with snap oversteer that restricted him to tenth spot – an improvement of three places over Friday – and an afternoon of poring over the data in search of a solution. Eventually, after a thorough investigation of the #10 machine, the engineers seconded to Barker’s effort from 2012 UK entrant Parr Motorsport discovered a crack in the left rear driveshaft which went a long way to explaining the handling problems he had suffered in the timed session.

“The team says I was lucky that the shaft hadn’t exploded during qualifying,” the Briton revealed, “I could hear a knocking noise throughout the session, but we couldn’t pinpoint it until afterwards. The crack could have been caused by the amount of wheelspin I was getting while running slicks in Friday’s damp conditions, but that’s no consolation because I wanted a better result from my home race.”

With the problem fixed overnight, Barker was able to approach Sunday morning’s F1 curtain-raiser with renewed confidence. In front of a capacity crowd already buoyed by home success in both the GP2 and GP3 series, the Briton was quickly into ninth place, and briefly threatened to take eighth before his position on the outside for Brooklands worked against him.

From there on, the race proved to be largely processional, with overtaking opportunities limited by the layout and the parity of the lead group in which Barker found himself. Despite being able to run close to Supercup veterans Martin Ragginger and Christian Engelhardt, and post lap times on a par with the frontrunners, the Briton was unable to engineer a passing position. 

“I was happier with the pace we had, but had no confidence under braking, as the rear wheels were locking up,” he explained, “The problem persisted even when I altered the brake bias, and it prevented me from making a lunge at those ahead. Despite that, I was able to run with the chasing pack, and had points leader Sean Edwards in sight for the entire 13 laps, but was waiting for someone to make a mistake in order to improve my position.”

A second successive ninth-place finish was still a good result for the rookie, who has now completed each of his first three Supercup races inside the top ten, and moved into a share of sixth overall in the championship standings ahead of round four at the Nurburgring this weekend.

“The race may not have produced the top five result we were hoping for, but it was another top ten, and that is what we are targeting from every round in my rookie season,” Barker concluded, before heading for an on-stage appearance alongside Lewis Hamilton and MotoGP’s Cal Crutchlow at the post-grand prix party, “The atmosphere has been amazing all weekend – even on Friday when it was cold and wet – and I wish I could have got a better result for everyone. Looking out across the crowd at the after-party was an amazing way to round things off, but there is no time to dwell on what might have been,  as there is another new circuit to learn this weekend and another top ten result to chase…” 

The fourth round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup takes place in support of the German Grand Prix over the weekend of 5-7 July.

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