Ben Barker and the Gulf Racing team enjoyed a solid podium finish at round five of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship – the 6 Hours of Mexico.
Energised by the summer break and motivated by the strong showing at the Nürburgring last time out, Barker and co-drivers Mike Wainwright and Nick Foster had high hopes for the highly competitive GT-Am class onboard their #86 Porsche 911 RSR.
With top-three times in the wet practices, Barker pushed on to post the fastest time during the dry practice ahead of qualifying. He would repeat the feat during qualifying, topping the times during his qualifying stint. Wainwirght was also on pace and the aggregate time from the team would be good enough to qualifying them in a season-best third in class.
“It might have taken us four rounds and a lot of hard work, both before and during race weekends, but we came to Mexico confident that we had found a good direction in the development of the car,” Barker explained,
“We’re understanding the Dunlop tyres more and more with every outing and that was evident as soon as we hit the track here. It’s always encouraging to be at the sharp end of the times from the start of practice and topping FP3 was confirmation of the effort that has gone in this season.
“We were only making minor tweaks through practice, which is how you want it, and Mike [Wainwright] was ‘on it’ from the start of the weekend too. He’s a very different driver now compared to the start of the year, and that showed with his times in qualifying, which allowed us to take third in class and get within a second of pole position.”
Wainwright took control of the car for the start of the race and remained in the top three during his stint. Barker took over and quickly lapped within half-a-second of the outright pace, which brought the Porsche back on to the lead lap. Foster put in a strong performance for his stint and started to close in on the second-placed Aston Martin before having to settle for the final podium position in the closing stages of the race.
“We were hoping that the rain would return at the end, but it didn’t and that left Nick a little too much ground to make up in the time available,” Barker admitted, “Having said that, however, if anyone had offered us a podium finish before the weekend, we would have snapped it up, so to know that we were threatening the #98 Aston at the end is a massive result for this team.
“This is definitely a podium earned on pace as nobody dropped out ahead of us – and it’s a great reward for the whole team, especially the guys behind the scenes, who have performed faultlessly all season. We’ve come close to the podium before, so it’s good to get the monkey off our back at last!”