Ben Barnicoat completes successful debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans

Wednesday, August 25, 2021
24 Hours of Le Mans - Race Report

Ben Barnicoat demonstrated his skill and adaptability as he took on one of the biggest challenges in global motorsport, as he joined an all-rookie inception racing driver line-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Despite his lack of experience at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe, Ben’s performances on track secured a top-5 grid slot during qualifying before helping to successfully complete the action-packed 24-hour battle in 12th place.

Stand-out performances during the weekend’s qualifying sessions saw Ben initially light up the timing screens of the GTE-AM class, and the young Brit was 4th as the clock ran down to secure a place in the hyperpole shootout. Unphased by the high-pressure hyperpole environment, Ben delivered another stellar display to take 5th place on the grid.

The inception racing team, running with Optimum Motorsport in conjunction with Kessel Racing, worked tirelessly throughout the whole weekend to provide the highest calibre of support, and an incident during the final testing session by one of Ben’s teammates would push them to a new level as they dug deep to ensure the car was ready for the start. Although a significant setback, the grit and determination never dropped and the significant effort by all involved saw the #71 on the grid and ready for the start of the 89th running of the famous twice-around-the-clock event.

After posting the quickest time of the pre-race warm-up session, Ben took the start behind the Safety Car. This initial delay was due to a rain shower just ahead of green flag running, and when the racing finally commenced Ben successfully navigated a hectic opening few laps which saw a number of front-runners coming together and spinning off.

Trouble-free running saw the #71 running well with was briefly interrupted with two punctures during early running, slightly hindering progress, but Ben and his teammates pressed on and were firmly in the top-5 five as they reached half distance. Hour 13 turned out to be unlucky for the trio, however, as a routine pitstop saw an unfortunate error with a wheel coming loose after Ben returned to the 13-kilometre circuit. The slow return to the pits and resulting repair work dropped the team down the order, outside of the top-6 for the first time during in the race.

Once back out on track, overall performance remained as strong as it had been prior to the incident, running at the same pace as the class leaders. The extended stop had dropped the team out of contention, but Ben, Brendan and Ollie remained undeterred and successfully pushed on to the chequered flag to claim a very hard-fought finish, against the odds. At the line, the trio were 12th in class, 42nd overall.

Reflecting on successfully completing his first 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ben explained:

“It was an amazing experience from start to finish. We had a couple of big challenges to overcome, not least the incident in night practice and having to start the race in the wet in a car I hadn’t raced before on a new circuit for me. Nevertheless, the team did an amazing job to give us a great car, and I enjoyed every single minute.
"We had a really strong showing from start to finish, and qualifying was a personal highlight for me. To have such a strong performance in the sessions on my Le Mans debut, and to achieve top-5 in hyperpole, is something I will never forget. Pace was good from all three of us throughout the whole race, and it was hugely unlucky to have the incident in the pitstop, but these things happen, and the main thing was that we brought the car home and completed our first Le Mans 24 Hours.
“A huge thank you to all at inception racing and Kessel for the efforts to get us to the start line and then bring us to the finish. Also, a massive thank you must go to Brendan for making it all possible and making my first 24 Hours of Le Mans such an enjoyable and memorable experience.”

Ben returns to the track again this weekend for his home event of the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS, competing in the JOTA McLaren 720S GT3 at Brands Hatch, 28-29 August.