Ben returned to the cockpit of the #45 Thunderhead Carlin Racing Dallara P217 alongside teammates Jack Manchester and Harry Tincknell with high levels of confidence. Preparation ahead of the trip to the Bend Motorsport Park had been significant for the drivers and the entire team, and this was evident from the first practice session. The car performed well throughout each of the practice periods, and even a rain-affected second session could not dampen the team’s pace and enthusiasm for qualifying.
Feeling quietly confident with the set-up of the car, Ben took the responsibility of qualifying for the race and pace was immediately evident during the opening laps. This was the first time Ben had taken part in an Asian Le Mans Series qualifying session, and only his second qualifying experience at the wheel of an LMP2 machine. Despite the lack of experience, the young Brit took the challenge in his stride and after a red flag interrupted the first run, Ben’s second flying lap on new tyres put him and his Thunderhead Carlin Racing teammates at the front of the grid.
“The car has felt great in every session, and it is great to secure pole position for the race. It was great to take pole on my first time Asian Le Mans Series qualifying against strong opposition, and the whole team has done a fantastic job in the build up to the session. Despite losing some time with the rain we had, it hasn’t affected things, and we are in a strong position going in to the race.
“It is going to be a long race, and I think traffic will be a factor due to the layout of the circuit as there are not a lot of overtaking opportunities, but we are starting from the best possible position, and it is going to be a great experience.”
The four-hour race would prove to be a challenge, but Ben’s teammate Jack Manchester maintained a top-2 position during the frantic opening laps. As had been anticipated, lapping traffic brought about hazards for the front-running cars, and Jack came into contact with a slower GT car mid-way through his opening stint. This saw the #45 handed a drive-through penalty, but the team was also forced to pit from the lead lap to carry out vital repairs to the rear wing and bodywork which were damaged.
Despite this dropping the all-British trio out of contention for the race win, vital championship points were still available and, following quick repair work by the team, the car was back out on track again and ran faultlessly in P4 for the majority of the race. Ben, Jack and teammate Harry Tincknell managed the gap to the chasing pack while working on closing to the leaders and working through the slower GT traffic.
The persistence and determination of the team paid off in the closing stages when, with only a handful of laps remaining, the race leader was forced to retire. This promoted Ben and his teammates into the final podium position, giving Thunderhead Carlin Racing a second consecutive P3 finish in the championship.
“It was great to achieve a podium here at The Bend Motorsport Park on my first ever visit after all the hard work by the team, and we know that with the pace of the car we definitely deserved more than a P3 finish. However, this result secures us another important haul of points for the challenge on the championship, and we know that if we can iron out a few minor mistakes, a win is definitely on the cards.
“I am really looking forward to being back in the car for the next round in Sepang, which is another new track for me to get to grips with. It will be another challenge with the high heat and humidity levels, but the car has felt strong in both races so far and we are confident that we will be fighting for the win.
“The Thunderhead Carlin Racing team did a fantastic job throughout the entire race weekend, and I’d like to thank them for the effort and determination every member of the team showed to give us such a strong package. A big thank you to Wentvalley Aggregates and Recycling for the continued support of my racing programmes.”
Round 3 of the Asian Le Mans Series travels to Malaysia for the 4 Hours of Sepang, taking place 14-15 February.