Ben Barker burst onto the international GT racing scene after taking an unusual route for a British driver to the FIA WEC.
After karting and Formula Ford in his home country, Ben’s next steps forward came in Australia where Ben scored title winning success in the national F3 Championship, edging out current Jaguar Formula E racer Mitch Evans in a close fought season.
Sportscars came calling and the next career move saw a shift to the high pressure one make Porsche ranks with early race winning success in the Australian Carrera Cup followed by a 2012 season in the British series that saw him take a string of race wins en route to second place in the Championship standings (to Michael Meadows).
Porsche Supercup (above) came next and by 2014 podium finishes were coming just as GT racing offers began to come along both from North America and Europe (as well as back in his old stomping grounds in Australia). A class win at the Bathurst 12 Hour dovetailed nicely with standout performances with GB Motorsports in IMSA’s GTD class, leading Petit Le Mans and the 6 Hours at the Glen.
taking a high profile win in the Le Mans 24 Hours supporting Carrera Cup race (see below) and gathering speed in his first outings in a GTE spec car as he joined Gulf Racing UK in the European Le Mans Series.
By 2016 he was back with the Gulf Racing team, this time for a full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship (alongside starts in Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, ELMS, Bathurst 12 Hours and a double duty WEC weekend when Ben also had a drive in the IMSA Series) where the earlier experience was paying off, his times in the car impressing many onlookers, none more so than his own team who, as Barker emerged from the 2017 FIA driver rankings as a Gold ranked driver, a move that has stalled the career of many an aspiring driver, showed confidence backed by the evidence of their own data to retain his services for the coming season, now as lead Pro driver.
So how does that feel Ben?
“It’s great to have that level of confidence shown in my abilities. Obviously I know how well I went last season but it’s always a good feeling to see your own team endorse your own feelings and give me the opportunity.
“I knew a little while ago, there had been talks at the end of the season on what the possibilities might be so it’s been a bit of a wait.
“I’ve been looking at other programmes too but coming into a World Championship as the lead driver focuses your attention on the task in hand.
“My job now is a little different from before, beyond the ever present challenge of delivering pace and consistency.
“One major plus for me is to be back at the same tracks for a second full year. That helps me to get the best out of myself and to help Mike (Wainwright) to get the best from himself too.
“Another plus is that we have a little more pre-season preparation this time around where I can help Mike to unlock a little bit more.
“We’ll use a Porsche Cup car in some private testing which is a great tool to look at some of the fundamentals, it accentuates what you feel in just about every aspect of a lap, and making improvements with a Cup car makes it easier to unlock a little more in a number of areas whilst doing it in a low key way.
All of those lessons can be transferred to the 911 RSR and that means we can reduce the pressure of the WEC events themselves.”
So what are the objectives for the coming season?
“We have to be looking at podiums in 2017 and beyond that we are working towards making wins a real possibility.
“A podium at Le Mans would be a major highlight after coming pretty close last year (the team finished 5th in class), but consistency will deliver all of that, we have to work on that first and up the speed on track and in the pits whenever we can and I have spent a lot of time thinking about where I can save a little on track, in traffic and in the pits.
2017 marks an important anniversary for Gulf at Le Mans, the 40th anniversary of the first appearance of one of the most famous names, and colour schemes, in world motorsport:
“Absolutely, and it is a real privilege to be a part of it, this year in particular. There should be a lot of buzz, a lot of interest a really exciting time to be part of it. I know the whole team is looking to produce their very best to deliver a performance that plays well to those that will be following our progress.
“I’m really looking forward to playing my part. The biggest race in the world in a car that thousands will be willing to go well – No pressure!”