California delivers further IMSA silverware for Ben Barnicoat

Monday, May 2, 2022
IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship - WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
The conclusion of the western wave of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship saw a further podium finish for Ben Barnicoat and the Vasser Sullivan team, as the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 scored its best result of the year. A combination of hard battling on track and clever strategy from the pitwall saw Ben and teammate Jack Hawksworth claim P2 at the flag, extending the string of improving results with back-to-back podiums at the Californian events, and putting the team in third place in the championship.

Riding high from the top-3 result on the streets of Long Beach, the team had made further progress with the set-up of the dayglo yellow and black Lexus, and pace looked strong from the outset. The opening practice sessions saw Ben and Jack among the quickest of the GTD Pro runners, firmly near the top of the timesheets. However, tyre degradation played a part in the outright pace as Jack took on the quickfire session, and the #14 equalled the best qualifying result of the year in P5.

Ben watched on as Jack took the start of a busy race under the Californian sunshine. Despite several incidents unfolding over the opening laps, the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 stayed out of trouble, and Jack maintained P5 in class before an early call from the pitwall. The decision to make an early stop for tyres and fuel would turn out to be a masterstroke as, shortly after returning to the track, a heavy impact for one of the GTD runners would bring out the Safety Car. As the rest of the field made longer pitstops for a full service, the Vasser Sullivan capitalised on the opportunity with a quick stop to simply top up with fuel, moving up the order. On the restart, Jack held the final podium position but quickly gained a further position when back up to full race pace.

Just before the hour mark, Ben took over driving duties and returned to the track still in the fight for the top-3. Working quickly to bring his tyres up to temperature, Ben wasted no time in making his move and had regained P2 within a lap. From here, the young Brit pressed on and worked to manage the tyres, while defending from the GTD Pro field in his mirrors. His hard work paid off as he successfully absorbed the continued pressure, crossing the line at the conclusion of lap 107 in P2, and securing the best result of the season to underline the continued improvements and drive by Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing USA.

Summarising the season-best result to-date in the Lexus RC F GT3, Ben explained:
“Another amazing day for me, Jack and the entire #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus Racing crew. This result really is like a win for us here. Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca has been a super tough event for Lexus in previous years with the best finish being P6, so to come away with a podium is a huge achievement. We started the weekend in a good place following our successful test a couple of weeks ago, with the crew working hard to improve the car, and today obviously proved out the results. I’m incredibly proud and grateful of everyone under the Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing banner.
“The race, and my stint, was a new challenge. We ran further than we had ever on a set of tyres in any of the testing or over the weekend, and the track is high on tyre wear, but it was just the way the strategy fell. It was a strategic masterclass by the team so I had to manage the tyres as best I could, but I felt I had the pace through to the end. It is a really proud feeling to bring home the first podium at Laguna Seca for the Lexus RC F GT3 and Vasser Sullivan, and I’m grateful that the Californian run was good to us. Really looking forward to seeing what we can do at Watkins Glen.”

The points scored move Ben and Jack into third place in the championship standings heading to round 5, the Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, taking place 13-15 May 2022.