British driver Ben Barker has been named the inaugural Michelin Australia Sportsperson of the year award at the Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia awards night in Sydney.
The award takes into consideration the performance of all the drivers in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, and Barker was nominated by series Driver Standards Observer and former V8 Supercar regular, Cameron McConville, as the driver determined to best represent Michelin's core values of safety, performance and respect.
Barker, who drives for Team BRM – TOTAL Oils and finished fifth outright in the Championship, was presented with a $25,000 subsidy towards his 2012 tyre costs in the one-make Porsche championship.
Delighted to receive the prestigious award and to be recognised for his impressive rookie season in the competitive Porsche ranks, he said: “I'm properly surprised by this. This is a massive thing for Michelin to do and I have to thank them for putting up the award.
“I was a new driver to Porsche racing with a new team to Porsche racing and it's been a learning year. We have been very fast and even though it didn't end the way we wanted, it was great to get some wins on the board this weekend and show what the team and I were capable of.
“To be recognised for my debut season like this by Michelin Australia and a hugely respected driver like Cameron is amazing. I'm dead happy!”
Michelin Australia Managing Director, Thierry Martin, congratulated Ben and said Michelin was proud to recognise his performance this year.
“The Michelin Australia Sportsperson of the Year award is not just about racing performance, but about their behaviour and attitude on and off the track. The winner is a driver who, at all times, drives safely and cleanly,” said Mr Martin.
“We are keen to reward those drivers who have the balance of performance and safety, I congratulate Ben for achieving this in 2011.”
Barker also received high praise from now three-time series champion Craig Baird, who said watching the development of the 21-year-old’s performance was a highlight of his season too.
“Ben is a fantastic young guy with a great team around him, who completely support him, and it's been great to watch him develop as a driver this season,” Baird said.
“It is great that he was able to get some wins on the board this weekend and I really hope he comes back next year, though I might regret saying that because he's super quick.
“But watching him grow as a young guy coming into the series has been a highlight.”
Team BRM – TOTAL Oils enter the off season with one of the fastest Porsche's in the pack, their strong season having netted two pole positions, three quickest laps and two wins from the seven rounds and 21 races. The team is now working on expanding its 2012 season programme to include at least two cars.