Racing with Thunderhead Carlin Racing, the young Brit secured pole position and victory at the Chang International Circuit with teammates Jack Manchester and Harry Tincknell to narrowly miss out on the title by a single point.
With the highs of the previous weekend’s victory still front of mind, Ben and the team arrived at the Buriram circuit full of confidence and still in with a chance of taking the title, but it would be a tall order. A further race win would be required, with the finishing order of the title rivals would then play a part. Early pace looked extremely promising for the British team, topping the timesheets in the first test session and the setup looked to be well-suited to the 4.554km track. Some adjustments were made during the second practice session, and in the final free practice session before the all-important qualifying, the team was quickest.
With a point on offer for pole position, qualifying offered an opportunity to slightly reduce the gap to the championship leaders. Ben was back on qualifying duties for the team, and immediately pushed for a front-row gridslot. With enough time for two attempts at the top spot, Ben showed strong pace in the opening lap to take 2nd place on the timesheets. The additional lap saw Ben improve further, and as he crossed the line improved his time further to claim pole position and the additional championship point.
After securing his second pole position of the season, Ben commented: “The confidence throughout the team after the free practice sessions was high, and we knew we had a strong setup. The team has done a fantastic job to give us a car that we can really push and extract the most out of, and it was great to be pushing for the top spots in each session. The car felt good in the first qualifying run but I knew there were a couple of places where I could look to make up some time, and the second lap really flowed. It was a great battle with Nick (Cassidy) and to be up against the current Super Formula champion, fighting for my second pole position for the team, but it is even more important that we scored the extra point. There is still a lot to do to close the gap to the championship leaders, but we will give it everything to win the race and see how that leaves us at the end of the race.”
Ben’s teammate Jack Manchester made an impressive start to the race, maintaining the race-lead at the wheel of the #45 Thunderhead Carlin Racing Dallara P217. This strong opening stint set the team up in the best possible way for the remainder of the race, even despite an unfortunately-timed Full Course Yellow period prior to Jack’s first pitstop. The team eventually pitted, and Harry Tincknell took over driving responsibilities with a 30 second gap to the leader when he emerged back on to the track. Strong pace saw this deficit reduce to less than 20 seconds when he pitted for a second time, Ben’s task was to take the sprint to the flag.
To stand a chance of winning the title, Thunderhead Carlin Racing had to win the race, and rely on the other title contenders finishing in 3rd or lower. Ben took over for a final double stint, turning in consistently quick laps to close the gap to the leaders and gradually moved his way through the field. Some close racing and well-judged moves saw the young Brit eventually move to the front of the field and battling with the championship rival for the outright lead. After several close proximity racing between the two leaders, Ben took the lead and gradually start to pull out a buffer to the chasing pack. Ben and his teammates had done everything they could do for the championship, crossing the line for a second race win of the season and a perfect weekend with pole position and fastest lap. With the team’s main rivals finishing 2nd, Thunderhead Carlin Racing ended the debut Asian Le Mans Series assault in an impressive P2 in the standings, missing out on the title by the smallest of margins – just a single point behind the champions.
“What a great race, and the most amazing season overall. The whole Thunderhead Carlin Racing team has done a great job and they delivered us a perfect car this weekend. I am really proud of the results we have achieved, and it is a great feeling to sign off the season with back-to-back victories. We knew we had a mountain to climb with the championship standings, but Jack, Harry and I did everything we could out on track and to come within a single point of taking the title in our debut is a real credit to everyone involved.
“I have learned a huge amount throughout this season and really enjoyed every minute of it. This is definitely one of the highlights of my career so far, and I feel like I have learned some big lessons over the course of the races. The whole team has evolved and improved with each event, and we return to Europe much stronger than when we set out on this journey. The car has gone from strength to strength, and the team has done a fantastic job to optimise the set up and give us such a competitive package which just inspires confidence when your driving.
I am looking forward to continuing the journey with the team moving forward, and a huge thank you for the opportunity to be part of such an exciting Asian Le Mans Series Campaign.
Finally, huge appreciation to my personal sponsors Wentvalley Aggregates and Recycling for continuing to support my racing programmes.”
Ben’s 2020 race plans will be confirmed in the coming weeks.