Ben Barnicoat signed off his 2021 race season with another strong performance as he and the inception racing team debuted in the IMSA championship at the 2021 Petit Le Mans. However, any hopes of a dream result to bring the curtain down on what has been an impressive season for the young Brit, were brought to a premature end after his teammate was unable to avoid becoming involved in a multi-car incident in the opening half of the 10-hour endurance battle. All drivers were uninjured, but the collision saw race-ending damage caused to the inception racing entry.
After his impressive debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier this season, Ben was reunited with the inception racing team once again as they arrived for their rookie outing in the championship. A new series brings its own challenges but, having completed some testing mileage last season at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta previously, Ben had some experience of the circuit which he could share with his teammates Brendan Iribe and Frederik Schandorff.
The team's setup on the McLaren 720S GT3 suited the tricky 2.54-mile circuit, and the trio’s initial showing looked promising as they ended the opening practice session in P2. There were a few challenges over the sessions to work through, but the inception racing team worked hard to keep pushing forward and saw the #70 McLaren qualify on the fourth row of the highly competitive GTD grid.
Capitalising on this pace, Frederick made up several positions from the race start and had moved up to run inside the top-4 during the opening laps. A frantic race then followed, with several Full Course Yellow periods bringing the action back under control. As the laps continued, Ben took over for his first IMSA race experience, looking to continue pushing forwards. With further track cautions, race restarts and pitstop strategies, the black and red-liveried inception racing entry moved up and down the order before settling into P6.
Looking to optimise another Full Course Yellow period around the four-hour mark, a strategy call saw Brendan return to the cockpit for his second stint after an impressive opening run in the early stages. Having already avoided an earlier incident while the race was running under caution, as the field prepared for the restart, Brendan suffered a heavy impact from behind. The resulting incident – which involved seven of the GTD grid - caused race-ending damage to the McLaren and brought an untimely end to Ben and the team’s hard-fought efforts on their IMSA debuts.
“It is obviously a hugely disappointing end to an amazing debut weekend for me and the whole inception racing team. It was definitely a weekend of new challenges, competing in a new series with different rules and regulations, but the team adapted seamlessly and gave us a great setup from the outset, we were immediately on the pace, and the car was handling great up until the very end of our race. The race itself was crazy from the opening lap, but Fred made a great start and Brendan did a great job in a highly intense environment. Sharing the track with prototypes and running with different paced classes is a real challenge, but we were in a good position to keep fighting, and we felt there was the opportunity of a strong result on our debut.
“It is always frustrating to be taken out of a race, and Brendan was hugely unlucky and had nowhere to go to avoid being collected on the restart. It was a nasty incident, but I am really pleased to see that he, and the other drivers involved, all walked away uninjured. Overall, it is obviously disappointing not to be able to sign off the year on a high and deliver the team the strong result which they deserved, but it was a hugely positive debut IMSA for me and the whole team, and great to be part of the Petit Le Mans weekend. I am extremely grateful to inception racing for the opportunity to be part of the programme, and for the trust they put in me to be part of the IMSA challenge.”