The much-anticipated season-opener for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup unfortunately did not deliver the result Ben Barnicoat and the JOTA team had hoped for in Monza. Ben arrived at the race weekend on the back of strong results scored in the Middle East this season with the McLaren 720S GT3. However, a technical issue on the formation lap forced Ben to bring the car back to the pits, all-but-ending any chance of a result.
Hopes for a strong performance were high going into the weekend, with Ben returning to the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS for a full-season entry for the first time since 2017. The team looked to be in a good position after the opening practice and pre-qualifying sessions, pushing for a top-10 position against a world-class grid in the championship debut for JOTA.
The weekend’s qualifying sessions saw Ben out in the #38 JOTA McLaren first, and the young McLaren Factory Driver showed his intentions early with a solid top-10 opening lap. Over the course of the remaining minutes, Ben continued to improve and find further pace around the 5.793km Monza circuit, eventually ending the session in P7 just 0.660s off the quickest time. Teammates Ollie Wilkinson and Rob Bell followed, and the combined qualifying times saw the trio line up in P17 for the season-opener.
As Ben made his way around the formation lap to the grid, a technical issue with the transmission was identified which would ultimately call time on the team’s effort. Ben continued to take the start but the gamble did not pay off and he immediately lost drive out of turn 1, dropping down the order as he then made his way back to the pitlane. The JOTA team identified the issues and worked to get the car back out on track as quickly as possible, collecting important data and experience over the following laps before bringing the car back into the pits.
“It is obviously a really disappointing way to end the first weekend of the season with JOTA and my return to the championship, but there are a lot of positives to take forwards. We had solid overall pace in every session, and I was really pleased with the qualifying performance to be well inside the top-10. It was a really positive weekend up until the race start, but we were unlucky with a small technical issue. It has been great to be part of the JOTA team this weekend and to be back racing in Europe, and we will regroup and go again in Magny-Cours for the opening round of the Sprint series in a few weeks.”
Ben returns to the track with JOTA for round 2 of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS which now travels to France. The first Sprint Cup event takes place at Magny-Cours over the weekend 7-9 May.