VIR delivers another top-3 finish for Ben Barnicoat

Monday, August 29, 2022
IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship - Michelin GT Challenge at VIR - VIRginia International Raceway
The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship travelled to VIRginia International Raceway for the penultimate event of the 2022 season, and Ben Barnicoat was back on the podium after another hard-fought effort. Ben and Vasser Sullivan teammate Jack Hawksworth continued in the rich vein of form to clinch the third step of the VIR podium as they look to end the season on a high.

Arriving off the back of the first GTD Pro win last time out, Ben and Jack looked comfortable in the vivid fluro yellow and black #14 Lexus RC F GT3, setting the early pace in the opening practice sessions. A challenging qualifying session, however, saw an unusual drop in outright pace as Jack qualified in P5.

Despite the setback, race pace looked strong and the Vasser Sullivan entry held position off the start, battling hard to keep the pressure on the lead pack. Within three laps, the pass was made, and Jack then closed in on the podium positions as the race action calmed slightly after a busy opening few laps. With just under two hours remaining, the first of the pitstops gave Jack an opportunity to run in clean air before his first scheduled stop. Making the most of the chance, the #14 Lexus showed its pace from earlier in the weekend, immediately going quickest.

Jack stayed onboard for the second stint, switching for Ben when the race came under a Full Course Yellow. As the entire GTD Pro field took to the pitlane, the pressure was on the Vasser Sullivan crew, who delivered a slick service to quickly send Ben on his way. The extended caution period eventually returned to green, and Ben was under immediate pressure from the chasing Corvette, but the Brit held his line – and his nerve – to defend the position through the fastest section of the circuit.

Ben continued to absorb constant pressure from the chasing pack and had to take the best out of his tyres while defending. The battling saw him briefly drop a position, but fuel stop strategies continued to play a part as the order of the field changed. Going into the final laps, Ben was holding station in P4, close on the rear bumper of the top 3, and the final scheduled stop saw Ben back on track refuelled with the team taking a gamble and staying on the same set of tyres. The decision to only fuel the Lexus RC F GT3 closed the gap to the leaders and, as the pit strategies played out, the #14 moved back into the podium positions as the white flag was waved for the final lap of the race. From here, Ben brought the car home for a sixth podium finish in his rookie IMSA season.

Commenting after the race, Ben explained:
“A bit of a rollercoaster weekend, overall. We had really strong pace, especially in the early sessions, and we showed flashes of that during the race to move up to P3, but I don’t think I was at my best today. It is great to be back on the podium, and the whole Vasser Sullivan Lexus Racing USA team did a fantastic job to help us move back up the order with quick stops and a great strategy, but we were a bit off the pace to challenge for the win. I feel I could have done a better job of managing my tyres, rather than fighting so hard at the start of my stint, and it could have given me a better run to potentially be in the hunt for P2 at the end.
"I will learn and improve, as we always do as a team. There is a lot for us to take away from the weekend, and we know the areas we need to work on ahead of the big finale at Petit Le Mans in a few weeks. The fight for second place in the championship is super tight, and I’m looking forward to going for it in Atlanta.”

The IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship comes to a conclusion with the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans event at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, taking place over the weekend 28 September-1 October.