Cruel end to the Mobil 1 Sebring 12 Hours for Ben Barnicoat

Monday, March 21, 2022
IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship - Sebring 12 Hours
A heart-breaking end to the Mobil 1 Sebring 12 Hours saw a podium finish snatched away in the closing moments from Ben Barnicoat and his Vasser Sullivan teammates, Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz, as they ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap. Fighting hard at the front of the field up to that point, the trio in the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 hadn’t put a foot wrong and looked set for a maiden IMSA GTD PRO podium result before eventually crossing the line in P7.

Running in much warmer conditions than they had previously introduced new challenges at the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, as the team looked to build on the solid opening round at Daytona. Aaron Telitz joined the line-up alongside Ben and season-regular Jack Hawksworth, and strong progress was made during the early sessions before a busy qualifying saw the dayglo Lexus RC F GT3 line up in P6 after having to negotiate heavy traffic and red flags.

The 12-hour event got underway in stifling heat and humidity, and the Vasser Sullivan GTD PRO entry was firmly within the lead group as Ben took to the track for his first stint. Progress was interrupted by several extended Full Course Yellow periods during a chaotic opening few hours, with 56 cars battling hard around the famous Florida circuit, but he maintained the challenge to the front-runners, moving up to the podium positions before his pitstop.

Further caution periods presented strategic opportunities, and the Vasser Sullivan team rolled the dice as the race passed middle-distance, choosing to take track position. The move put the team at the front of the field, and they continued to defend and battle hard as the pitstop strategies played out. Ben returned to the car as the afternoon started to turn to dusk, but with temperatures still extremely high. An issue with his driver cooling suit would add to the challenge, but the young Brit kept fighting and the #14 RC F GT3 remained a challenger in the lead battle as the race entered its closing stages. As Ben ended his final stint, the team was running in the final podium position and his teammates continued the charge to the chequered flag with darkness falling.

Having led 10 laps over the course of the 12 hours, the Vasser Sullivan Lexus was holding station for a maiden podium result as the white flag was flown to mark the final lap of the race. However, in final a cruel twist, the impressive charge was brought to a premature end a few corners before the chequered flag, eventually crossing the line in P7.

Reflecting on the disappointing end to an overall positive weekend, Ben explained:
“What a day. It was a hot one and very challenging especially during the stint when my coolsuit failed, but I think from the driver’s side we had a faultless day and kept the car clean all the way to the final hour. It was a chaotic race with multiple Full Course Yellows, but we kept ourselves out of trouble and ran our own race with no issues, which is a huge achievement. We had a near perfect race and think we all extracted everything we could out of the RC F GT3 to be in a podium position up until the moments before our issue at the very end. The end result doesn’t do justice to the effort from everyone at Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing USA over the weekend and I’m gutted. It is horrible to lose out on my first podium for the team like that, but we have a huge amount of positives to take away from this weekend and we’ll be back fighting for it at Long Beach.”

Focus now switches to Round 3 of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship as Ben and the Vasser Sullivan team head to California for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, 8-10 April 2022.