It was agonisingly close for Ben Barnicoat at the Indianapolis 8 Hour as a late incident forced a retirement from an impressive top-10 performance. The cruel twist of fate robbed the young Brit, alongside teammates Rob Bell and Paul Holton, of a top-10 finish following an impressive debut showing for the Crucial Motorsports outfit.
Ben joined newly formed US-based Crucial Motorsports for its bold programme, gunning for overall victory at the 8-hour battle around the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, lining up alongside fellow McLaren Factory Driver Rob Bell and Paul Holton. Early performance looked promising, running near the top of the timesheets during the first practice session in wet conditions with the #59 McLaren.
The team also looked strong during the heavily interrupted qualifying sessions as they looked to secure a top-15 position. After red flag delays in the opening two periods, Ben lit up the timing screens as he posted the fastest time of Q3. This combined effort secured a place in the Pole Shootout, before a technical issue prevented a time being posted, meaning a 15th-position grid slot.
Ben took the rolling start at the wheel of the McLaren 720S GT3, holding station during a busy opening lap as the 41-car field hustled and battled for position. A Full Course Yellow on lap 2 would be the first of many, and Ben took full advantage using it as a launchpad to start his progress through the field. Shortly after the restart, the Cheshire-born racer had made up five positions, including two bold moves in a single lap, to run within the top 10 and was comfortably the quickest car on track. After being released from a further Safety Car, Ben continued to scythe his way through the field, running as high as 7th as he pitted for the first routine driver change.
As strategies evolved with each stoppage, Ben watched his teammates continue to move up the order, leading the race outright during the second hour. Further incidents over the following stints saw the Safety Car scrambled several times, but the Crucial Motorsport entry continued to run at the pace of the leading pack, and battling within the top-10. The team looked to optimise the strategy as the race progressed, but unfortunate timing of the Safety Car on more than one occasion dropped the #59 McLaren off the lead lap. Despite this, Ben was within the top-10 and among the quickest on track when he emerged from the pitlane with less than 2 hours remaining. Picking up where he left off, Ben set about closing the gap to the cars ahead, lapping at the pace of the overall race leaders.
As the final pitstops played out, Ben’s pace was significantly quicker than the cars he was chasing, closing the gap, and picking off several positions before his final routine visit through the pitlane. A further Safety Car was called moments after he returned to the track, all-but-confirming a best-possible finish of 10th place, before a final twist in the closing stages ended any hopes of a well-deserved result.
As he continued to negotiate slower traffic and backmarkers following yet another Safety Car period, Ben came upon one of the leading contenders which was struggling for pace. As he looked to make a routine pass, the Mercedes closed the gap and made contact, causing extensive damage to the front of the McLaren. The incident brought the race to a cruel end for the #59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren, with little over 30 minutes remaining.