Race-leading pace goes unrewarded in Canada

Monday, July 4, 2022
IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship - Canadian Grand Prix
A challenging weekend at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park showed promise for Ben Barnicoat and the Vasser Sullivan team, but it was a case of what could have been as the chequered flag fell. The latest round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship concluded with Ben and his guest teammate Kamui Kobayashi finishing P6 in the GTD Pro class at the end of the latest sprint event battle.

Back-to-back IMSA race weekends saw the Vasser Sullivan team back in action, travelling north of the border, and another new circuit for Ben; Mosport. The British driver was joined for the weekend by double World Endurance Champion and double Le Mans 24 Hours winner, Kamui Kobayashi, in the #14 fluro yellow and black Lexus RC F GT3. Track running was limited in the early sessions, and a small error by Ben in the final free practice session caused damage to the Lexus which brought an early end to running. The Vasser Sullivan team worked to repair the damage, and Ben was back out on track for qualifying, battling hard and delivering his best laptimes of the weekend despite the lack of track time. A close fight at the front saw the session end with Ben in P5 of the GTD Pro class.

Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix started with Ben at the wheel, and he immediately looked to make progress as the track went green. An incident on the opening lap gave Ben the opportunity and, by the end of the first tour of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, he was moving forwards. Early interruptions over the opening laps saw the track brought under full course yellow control and a strategy call in the opening 20 minutes saw the team gamble on the strategy as Ben made a first visit to the pitlane while the race was under caution. A slightly delayed stop saw the #14 RC F GT3 return to the track slightly out of position, but Ben quickly recovered over the following laps. After his second stop, Ben was showing his true pace and potential, lapping consistently quicker than the race leaders as he closed the gap ahead. Running in clean air and working to chase down the final podium spot, he set the fastest lap of the race to that point and, as pitstops continued to play out, Ben gradually climbed the order.

With little over an hour to go Ben assumed the race lead but, as strategies played out, a further full course yellow caution was thrown as he entered the pitlane for the final scheduled stop and a switch to his teammate. With the track going back to full speed shortly after, Kamui made moves through the traffic and worked to close down the leading group, but he was unable to catch and pass the train of cars ahead. As the clock ran down, the team closed out the race to conclude a challenging weekend, finishing P6.

Following the race, Ben commented on the weekend:
“It was a tough weekend for the whole Vasser Sullivan team. I put us a little bit on the back foot with the crash during practice, but the team did an amazing job to recover from that and bounce back to get the car out in qualifying to get us some championship points. I was able to make a great start in the race, but it was at the misfortune of our teammates, and it was a shame to see them drop out of the race. We cycled to the front after that caution and were right behind the GTD PRO guys. We went off strategy to try and make something happen in the race today and it nearly worked. If I’d have been at the pit commitment line five seconds earlier, I think we could’ve been on for the win today, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
“For me personally, it was also an amazing experience to share the car with Kamui, and I’d like to thank him and the team for making that happen. It was a real shame that we couldn’t get a stronger result, but it was just one of those weekends. The thing we should take from this is that no one ever gave up which shows what a strong team we have. We’ll head to Lime Rock from here and keep fighting.”

Next up, the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship travels to Lime Rock Park where Ben will take on the FCP Euro North East Grand Prix, 15-16 July.