Podium on the streets of Detroit keeps IMSA championship fight on track

Monday, June 3, 2024
IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship - Detroit GP

A hard battle for Ben Barnicoat in Detroit saw the young Brit, and his Vasser Sullivan teammates, secure a third podium of his 2024 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship campaign. The action-packed race saw incidents from start to finish around the tight street circuit, with the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 heavily battle scarred as Ben crossed the line in P2 to score important championship points.

Racing as part of the IndyCar Detroit GP weekend, Ben and the team arrived with fond memories of the city, but looking at a new experience. Back in 2022, Ben scored his first race IMSA win, and a first with Lexus at the Detroit round of the calendar, but the event took place at the historic Belle Isle Park. The IMSA calendar returns to ‘Motor City’, after a year away, but the team would make a debut outing on the street circuit, downtown.

The initial sessions saw the team lacking overall pace, but making progress as they got to grips with the circuit layout. Pace improved, and the #14 moved up the order with each run, before Jack took on qualifying. His pace was immediately strong, fighting near the top of the timing screens throughout the shootout session. With times improving, Jack was firmly in the fight for pole position, eventually ending the session on the second row.

Under blue skies, Jack held position on the inside line away from the start, but was quickly promoted to P2 as the pole-sitter w forced to pit at the end of the opening lap, just before the first Full Course Yellow caution was thrown. He was then under the rear wing of the leader following the restart, hustling for position over the duration of his stint. As strategies played out, Jack pitted with just over 70 minutes remaining, running in a solid P2, and switched for Ben.

Ben took to the track before another caution period, which closed the field, and allowed him to immediately press as the track returned to green flag racing. A strong move just after the restart saw the RC F GT3 sustain front end damage, as the leader defended hard into the braking zone, and Ben briefly dropped a position as he recovered. Shortly after, another Full Course Yellow was called following contact between several cars, and Ben did well to avoid further incident as he came across a completely blocked circuit. As the track was cleared, Ben got back underway, now in P2, but having to drive with heavy damage.

Despite this handicap, Ben continued to battle hard, and kept pace with the leader for several laps before several further caution periods, which brought the field back together as the timer ran down. The closing laps saw Ben manage the pace well, continuing to pressure the leader, while comfortably managing the gap to the chasing pack behind. As the chequered flag flew, Ben claimed P2, strengthening the position in the championship, and keeping the title defence alive.

After the hard-fought street battle, Ben explained:

“That was a crazy race, but first I think we’ve got to look at where we started this weekend. On Friday morning in practice, we were lacking quite a bit of pace to our competition. But, a huge credit to Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing, as we worked hard and just kept on improving every time we hit the track, allowing allowed Jack to qualify in P3. That gave us a real opportunity, especially on a street course like this, which is so tight and hard to pass.
“Heading into the race, we all knew it was going to be a crazy race. We had a very early yellow, but Jack was holding P2, then I got going after the yellow and the #4 Corvette braked super early into turn 3. The gap was there, I went for it and then once I was in the gap I think he realized he braked too early, tried to cover me off and just drove me into the wall. Unfortunately, we hit him, dropped back a spot, and from that point I’m just very fortunate that we were able to finish the race as the car had a lot of damage, but we still showed fairly good pace and was able to hang onto P2 comfortably. Obviously, I’m sorry to the Vasser Sullivan guys that the car is scraped up, but I’m very happy with a P2 finish and good points. With six races to go, we’ve just got to keep working.”

IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship action returns at the end of the month for Ben, at Watkins Glen. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen takes place 20-23 June.