Seventh IMSA podium of the season for Ben Barnicoat at Road America

Thursday, August 10, 2023
2023 - IMSA - Road America
Ben Barnicoat has strengthened his hold on the IMSA Sportscar Championship, with a further podium result at Road America. Despite not showing the pace to fight for the overall race win, strong pit strategy and a faultless drive throughout the race saw Ben bring home the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 in P2. The result, his seventh podium of the season, extends the lead for him and Vasser Sullivan teammate, Jack Hawksworth, at the top of the standings, with three races remaining in the 2023 season.

Heading to the state of Wisconsin, the IMSA championship battle is intensifying, with the season approaching its conclusion. Ben was back in action for round 8 of the calendar, and the opening practice sessions saw the pair with some time to find, although still fighting near the top of the timings. Jack would take on the qualifying duties, and the battle at the front looked as fierce as ever, as he briefly topped the board. However, further improvements were made across the board as the time ticked down, and the #14 Lexus was unable to respond in the closing minutes, securing P4 for the start.

Issues ahead of the opening lap for one of the lead prototypes meant a delayed start to the race, but Jack made a clean getaway when the track did eventually go to green. He held position over the opening 30 minutes, before the pitstop strategies started to play out. With the race being two hours 40 minutes long, the opportunities for stops, refuelling and tyres, would provide teams with multiple different options on the best way to run the schedule. Vasser Sullivan opted to run a longer opening stint for Jack, choosing to take track position, which moved him up to P2 initially, before taking the lead just passed the 40-minute mark. This decision provided clean air, and an opportunity to build a lead. Running a 70-minute opening stint, and holding a 40-second lead over the chasing pack, the Vasser Sullivan crew then sprang into action, providing a full service to the #14 and sending Ben back out.

After the extended opening run, Ben climbed aboard with 90 minutes left on the clock. Strategy and fuelling would play a key part in how the remainder of the race would unfold. Ben slowly closed in on the leaders, moving from P5 as he left the pitlane, and back into the podium positions with an hour remaining. From here, the team made an early call, bringing Ben back into the pitlane for a short fuel stop to get him to the end. This dropped him down the order initially, but he quickly regained P4, and would then inherit a further position as the leader was handed a penalty for a pitstop infringement. From here, Ben was holding station in the final podium position in the sprint to the line, before a final twist saw the car ahead have to make a late fuel stop, moving Ben back into P2, which he then held to the chequered flag. The result was an impressive mix of pitwall strategy and faultless execution on track, extending the #14’s lead at the top of the championship standings heading to VIRginia International Raceway.

Off the back of his seventh podium of the season, Ben explained:

It was an unreal day really. I don’t feel that we had the overall pace to win today, and it’s the first race day all year that we felt like we didn’t have enough pace to challenge for a podium outright. We tried something different, and went off strategy to the others, and it paid off in the end. A lot of guys were running short on fuel or running out, and we just kept going, kept plugging along and climbed up the order to P2.
Obviously, you always want to win, but today I think second was a win for us. We didn’t have the pace, but others made mistakes and once again Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing did everything perfectly. Jack and I kept it on the island, and were able to pick up P2, and great points for the championship. To extend the championship lead again, heading into the last three races, is really important. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and execute three more times this year.”

The championship charge continues in three weeks’ time, as the IMSA Sportcar Championship heads to VIRgina International Raceway for the Michelin GT Challenge, 25-27 August.