Ben Barnicoat delivers his strongest season to date

Wednesday, December 7, 2022
2022 season summary
It has been a busy season for 25-year-old Ben Barnicoat, as he embarked on one of his busiest years to-date, and certainly his biggest challenge. After a glittering career in Europe, a new role with Lexus Racing USA and Vasser Sullivan saw the Brit travel Stateside for the full IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship, supplemented by additional events including the Gulf 12 Hours and the World Endurance Championship. The results speak for themselves – racing four different cars, all to a podium finish at least once, and three victories.

The season got off to a winning start in the desert, as Ben retained his Gulf 12 Hours title under the Yas Marina lights in Abu Dhabi, before going on to secure the Asian Le Mans Series championship. In the US, a top-4 finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona started the championship off on the front foot, and despite his rookie status and his fellow-Brit teammate Jack Hawksworth getting injured, podium finishes quickly followed in Long Beach and Laguna Seca. The breakthrough weekend with the Lexus RC F GT3 then came in Detroit, with Ben and the Vasser Sullivan crew claiming pole position and the race win.

In the World Endurance Championship, Ben bookended the season with podium finishes at the opening and closing events. A place finish in Sebring added to the silverware won on US soil, while his best result of the season came at the season finale, signing off the campaign with a 2nd place finish in Bahrain.

The second half of the IMSA championship saw the Brits reunited, and further strong results for the bold fluro yellow and black Lexus. Back on the podium at Lime Rock Park and VIRginia International Raceway, the run in for the season also saw pole position and a win in Road America before a grandstand finish with a memorable, and hard fought, win at Motul Petit Le Mans. An incredible achievement in his rookie year; 3 wins, 4 podiums, 3 pole positions and finished 2n in the championship.

Reflecting on the year, Ben explained:

Biggest highlight of the year?
“It has to be the Petit Le Mans win – it is also probably the biggest highlight of my career so far, so to achieve that in my first season with Lexus was a huge honour and something I am extremely proud of.”

Biggest challenge of the year?

“Overcoming the mid-season drama when Jack got injured. I have never had that happen to a teammate like that before, and to lose someone so important to the organisation which affected the overall dynamic. It was great to have him back for the latter half of the year.”

Biggest surprise?

“How successful I‘ve been! To take wins in 3 out of 4 of the cars I’ve driven was great. I joined Lexus with a drive to win and to be more successful than I had been, which I knew I was capable of, but to realise that in the first year was amazing. We scored podiums and three IMSA race wins which was a dream come true. I hope we can keep that momentum going into next season.”

Biggest learning?

“How to drive a front-engined car. My experience of racing so far - junior single seaters and then the move into GTs - has been with the engine behind me. It is a different skillset and style to learn, but hugely rewarding to put in performances which got better all year. Reallly please to be able to challenge my teammates and some great drivers in the different series I have competed in. It has been a great challenge, but made me better on the whole as a driver.”

Favourite track to drive?

“I’ve really enjoyed a few, but if it had to be one, it would be Mosport. Ironically, it was probably our worst result of the season, but the challenge of the track – very high speed, fast and flowing nature – made it one of the best and really exciting. As with many of the North American tracks, Mosport has little run off and no room for error, and it is a high speed lap in a GT car, but the consequences if you get it wrong can pretty significant. The thrill of driving it in a GT car is massive, and I am really looking forward to going back to make it one of our better results.”

Best piece of advice?

“It is never over until it’s over. Coming to IMSA, it has a different rule set, particularly the way it works with yellows and wave bys. You saw it at Daytona, and we benefitted from it at Petit Le Mans, and it can have an effect all the way until the flag drops.”

Thing I’m most proud of?

“How the whole year has gone in general. I’ve driven 4 different cars for 4 different teams, been on the podium for each, and scored a win with for 3 out of 4. I’ve shown a skillset across different types of cars, with different teams, learnt new tracks, and delivered strong results on different tyres. It really does show that my skillset is broader. It is my most successful season to date, and in a sport where you’re only as good as your last race, it has been fantastic to have some strong races over the season."

Heading into another winter programme, Ben summarised his first season being part of the Vasser Sullivan team:  

“It has been an amazing first year of racing in the IMSA championship with Lexus and Vasser Sullivan, and I am so proud to be part of this amazing team. We have come so far since the first test I had, and I have learnt so much - on track and off - working with Jack throughout the year, sharing a car with Kyle and being teammates with Kamui Kobayashi.
“Personally, I have had some incredible highlights across the season, and it really does feel like I’ve joined a family. We have become a really tight unit, getting stronger with every session, and we did not stop pushing all the way to very last lap. The hard work paid off to secure 2nd in the championship with the win at Petit Le Mans, and I could not be more motivated heading into the winter.”