Barker reflects on career ahead of third season in World Champs
As Ben Barker prepares for the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship campaign, the Echo caught up with the driver from Clare to find out how he feels ahead of the season.
Barker, 26, is in his third season of the FIA championship with Gulf Racing but still gets moments of wonder about how fortunate he has been in reaching the pinnacle of endurance racing.
This season he will compete at Le Mans twice, as part of the new racing calendar which will see it stretch over a 14-month period, taking in two Le Mans championships.
And he has been busy testing his new Porsche, which he said drives significantly differently, ahead of the first race of the season — the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on the first weekend in May.
Speaking from the Prologue event, a test race at Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France, Barker said: “I’ve just qualified second in the class so it’s looking pretty good.
“The car is substantially different but much better too. I’m pleased with how testing has been going and the team are in a really good place.
“It still hits me sometimes how lucky I am to have these opportunities — growing up it was a dream, but I’m not sure it’s one I ever imagined would happen.
“It’s an amazing career, and definitely the one for me, I love endurance racing and Le Mans is so special.
“It’s incredible to get the chance to race in it and we’ll get to do that twice this season.
“It’s the biggest race in the world and I get to take part — it’s impossible to describe the feeling, but I’m very proud.
“I can’t wait to get back there, that first lap is just incredible.
“There’s 300,000 people watching and so many more on television, and starting the race is pretty special.
“I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity and can’t wait for that again this year.”
The driver of the #86 Porsche 911 RSR explained that it was his mum, a keen racer herself in the past, who instilled a need for speed in him as a youngster.
“I grew up with that competitive side and racing just being something that happened,” he said.
“I really enjoyed watching and then I started with go karts and just really enjoyed it.
“It went from there really but it was definitely my mum who sparked the interest. She’s the competitive one.
“It’s a career now so my parents don’t come and watch so much anymore — you’re too busy to spend any time with anyone on a race weekend — but obviously they still follow my progress.”
Unfortunately for the Brit, who added he is looking forward to the 6 Hours of Silverstone event on August 17, his Prologue weekend petered out as the team received a scrutineering infraction — a technical infringement — to put them at the back of the grid for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet.
Despite working up to first place, the car suffered a fuel pressure issue and withdrew.