Golden result for Ben Barnicoat at Sebring 12 Hours

Monday, March 18, 2024
IMSA 2024 - 12 Hours of Sebring
Ben Barnicoat and his Vasser Sullivan teammates underlined their championship-winning credentials at the weekend, claiming victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring. The lights-to-flag result was a first win for the team and Lexus, getting Ben’s IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship challenge back on track after two rounds.

The 72nd running of the 12 hour event saw Ben back with the #14 crew, running with Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood, and pace looked immediately strong. The trio ran well throughout the opening sessions, looking to fight at the front of the GTD Pro field for qualifying. Jack took on the shootout lap, and was immediately proving to be among the quickest. As the timer ran down, Jack made further improvement to set the new benchmark, which would eventually claim a first pole position of the 2024 season.

Race day got underway with Jack in for the first stint, and Ben scheduled to drive around the 4-hour mark. With its special gold chrome livery, celebrating 50 years of Mobil 1 in motorsport, the Lexus held the lead from the start. It stayed at the front until the first pitstops and then, as strategies started to play out, a roll of the dice would see Jack and Kyle steadily climbed the order. Ben took to the track just before the 4-hour mark, and he quickly closed down the gap ahead to move back into the podium spots with the 100th lap completed.

After one of several Full Course Yellow cautions, with 7 hours and 30 minutes remaining, Ben moved the Vasser Sullivan Lexus back into the lead. From here, he continued to deliver impressive laptimes, and pulled out a 1-second lead before handing back over to Kyle. The race then saw further cautions and incidents as it entered the second half. Kyle and Jack made further gains as the strategies continued to play a part.  

With just over 4 hours 20 minutes remaining, Ben returned to the hotseat, running under caution, in P6. A brief return to green flag running was then interrupted once again just before the 8-hour mark, but the young Brit managed the second restart well and continued to make progress up the order. With another hour chalked off, Ben had moved into the lead once again. From here, he held station at the front of the GTD Pro field, before handing over to Jack with 90 minutes to go. From here, Ben watched on as the race delivered a grandstand finish, with the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus crossing the line ahead of the chasing pack by just 0.121s.

Commenting after his visit to Victory Lane at Sebring International Raceway, Ben explained:

“This is huge! Obviously, it is huge for the organisation - all the Lexus Racing crew has been grinding, working so hard, looking for perfection year in and year out. I've been lucky to step in the programme at such a good time. In the first year we got the Petit Le Mans win, which was incredibly amazing. Last year, we won Watkins Glen and then the championship. Now we have ticked off Sebring. We’ve just got Daytona left to go!
We had a rough start to this season, but the performance today showed why we were champions last year. That was definitely a champion's comeback and got our season well and truly back on track. We're looking forward to going from here.”

The result is the first 12 Hours of Sebring victory for Vasser Sullivan and Lexus. It also saw Ben and his teammates improve on last year’s result, taking that important step up onto the top of the podium for the first time.

The third round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship heads to California. The Grand Prix of Long Beach takes place over the weekend, 19-21 April, 2024.