Disappointing end to a promising Rolex 24 at Daytona run for Ben Barnicoat

Tuesday, January 30, 2024
IMSA 2024 - Rolex 24 at Daytona
After a strong first outing for the 2024 season in the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 at last week, reigning IMSA GTD Pro champion Ben Barnicoat lined up on the front row for the season kick-off – the Rolex 24 at Daytona. A strong start by the Brit saw him initially move into the lead, but damage sustained in an incident shortly after the first stint would ultimately lead to race-ending damage, despite the best efforts of the team.

Ben was joined for the 2024 IMSA Sportscar Challenge season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Florida, by his championship-winning teammates Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood, alongside Mike Conway for a second successive season. The quartet looked to be one of the favourites for the 62nd running of the twice-around-the-clock endurance battle, and the early pace was evident as Ben took the start under clear blue skies. A bold move on the opening lap saw him move the #14 Lexus into the race lead, and he battled hard to maintain the position throughout the opening stint, before the race’s first incident to bring out a Full Course Yellow.

With strategy starting to play out, the team made the first pitstop, with Mike rejoining the track in the lead, ready for the restart. Shortly after the race got back underway, an initial incident brought out a brief caution before the #14 Lexus was hit heavily by an LMP2 on the exit of turn 1. Despite significant damage sustained, the Vasser Sullivan crew set about repairs, in an attempt to return to the race. An impressive performance by all involved saw the fluro yellow-and-black RC F GT3 back out on track a little over an hour later, and immediately back on the pace of the class leaders.  

Over the following 10 hours, the quartet worked to climb the order, making up five overall positions as night fell. Progress continued and, just before the 12-hour mark, Ben was running back inside the top-10 of the GTD Pro class. They continued to make gains up the order but, now with less than 10 hours remaining, the team were forced back into the pitlane with recurring issues following the initial incident. This extended stop would unfortunately prove be terminal, bringing a promising effort for the reigning champions to an early conclusion.

Commenting after the race, Ben explained:

Obviously, on a day like today that we had as a group, team, and family, you can only look to the positives that came from this race. We had a great qualifying result last week and got to start the Rolex 24 from the front row for the first time and take the lead in the first corner, which was special. First stint felt like we had great pace in our Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. We were in good control and comfortable, but what happened when Mike (Conway) was in the car was unavoidable. Wrong place, wrong time. That happens sometimes in motorsports. Just bummed for everyone that put so much effort into this race.
“We kept going after that incident to get as many points as we could. Fantastic job by the Vasser Sullivan crew to get the car ready to go. We were still able to get some points from the day and we did everything we could to maximize what we could. No one in this group deserves what happened to us and the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan RC F GT3 team today, but we are champions, and we have a champion mindset. We have championship drive and we’re not going to let this race deter us from going on to achieve great things this year. We’re going to get our heads down and get ready for Sebring.”

Focus for Ben and the team now moves to round 2 of the IMSA calendar, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, 13-16 March.