British racing driver Ben Barnicoat continued his strong start to the 2021 season with a podium finish on his GT debut in the opening weekend of the Asian Le Mans Series. Joining Inception Racing at the wheel of the McLaren 720S GT3, Ben helped secure an impressive 2nd place finish on his first-ever race in Dubai alongside teammates Brendan Iribe and Ollie, followed by a hard-fought 6th place at the opening events of the four-round championship. The results see Ben and his teammates 3rd overall heading to the season-closing events at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.
The race weekend was Ben’s first visit to the Dubai Autodrome, but the British ace was quickly on the pace against a grid of world-class talent as he took on the two qualifying sessions for the team. The pair of 15-minute sessions would set the grids for the two 4-hour events and Ben put the #7 McLaren in 8th for the opening round, while issues in the second period would see the team start from the back of the field. Disappointed not to be further up the grid, Ben was however confident in a strong result with the set up and the overall package for the races.
Race 1 saw Brendan take the start, and his quick pace saw him make up positions before pitting to hand over to Ollie. A strong double stint by Ollie over the middle period of the race moved the Inception Racing McLaren up to the podium positions, running well in 3rd entering the final hour. From here, Ben took over for the run to the flag clear of the chasing pack and closing down the lead pair. A spin by the GT class leader and a subsequent penalty for infringement of track limits would see Ben promoted to 2nd as he crossed the line at the end of the four-hour battle.
“It was great to secure such a good result on my debut with Inception Racing and so impressive to see how hard everyone has worked to get this result. Brendan had a great start, gaining two positions and setting us up nicely for Ollie who then did a double stint. He ended his run in P3 and it was then a case of me getting in the car and then really making sure that we played it safe with the track limits and so I had to be a little more conservative to ensure that we got the result we deserved."
A second podium result was going to be a real challenge for the #7 trio during race 2, but all three drivers went into the race motivated from the Race 1 result, showing pace and determination during each stint. Brendan would start Race 2 from the back of the GT grid, and he was immediately pushing to make up positions, moving up to 11th within four laps. An early Full Course Yellow period followed shortly after and the team made a change to the strategy and opted for a driver change with Ollie taking over. An unfortunate second Full Course Yellow occurred just after Ollie returned to the track which saw much of Brendan’s hard work undone, but the #7 McLaren pressed on and Ollie had moved into the top-10 as the race approached the 60-minute mark. Further gains saw Ollie running as high as 5th before he brought the car into the pitlane to hand back to Brendan who worked his way back through the field to be in 9th place as Ben once again took over for the final stint.
With less than a quarter of the race remaining, Ben re-joined the track and was quickly on the back of 8th place. The following laps saw the pair in a close battle around the Dubai Autodrome circuit, moving up the order to run in close formation battling for 5th and closing in on 4th place. The action continued up to the last lap as the McLaren Factory Driver pushed to find a way through but as the trio sprinted for the line, Ben would miss out by the narrowest of margins to finish an impressive 6th, just 0.071s behind his rival.
“It’s been a great debut for the McLaren 720S GT3 in this series and a mega first weekend for me with Inception Racing. It was a good race for us, but unfortunately, the first stop did cost us a little time as the track went green just as we were in the pitlane. it didn’t pay off for us on this occasion, but if it had worked out, we would have looked like heroes! Today, even from the back of the field, I think we would have been on for another podium, but the pace was there and that’s the main thing.
“Brendan and Ollie again did great stints, and I was chasing the #1 Mercedes all the way to the flag but got stuck behind some back-markers so just missed out on getting that position. A big thank you to the whole team for all of their efforts and we look forward to next week in Abu Dhabi.”
The result sees the #7 McLaren 720S GT3 of Inception Racing 3rd in the GT championship heading to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for the final two rounds of the championship, taking place 19-20 February.