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BARNICOAT: Taking the Next Step

Lexus Racing’s Ben Barnicoat files his first Sportscar365 column ahead of 12H Sebring…

Photo: Lexus Racing

2022 is planned out to be quite the year for me! In all honesty, if someone had said to me 12 months ago I would be racing full-time as a Lexus driver in IMSA’s top tier GT category, I’m not quite sure that I would’ve believed them, but here I am living the dream!

I was in a very good place and a comfortable home at McLaren. That made it feel like somewhat of a jump at the time to take the risk to join Lexus initially, but there’s really been no looking back for me.

On the back end of 2021 I was in great form in Europe, with a few pole positions and great run of results in the GT World Challenge Europe series.

On the back of that success, I received a call from Jack Hawksworth, who I’d never actually spoken to until that point. And that moment was where my journey to becoming a Lexus driver began.

I was very excited about the GTD Pro program from my very first phone calls between myself, Lexus, Jack and TRD, I really wanted to make it happen and pushed hard to make the deal work.

I’m hugely grateful for this opportunity to be here.

The thing for me that made this so attractive was that North American sports car racing and IMSA is in such a strong place right now.

Photo: Lexus Racing

The transition to the GTD Pro category using GT3 cars has made it very accessible for manufacturers such as Lexus to join this top tier in GT racing and take it to the likes of Corvette and Ferrari with a fully-funded factory program, which is amazing.

I saw this as my opportunity to take myself to the next step as a driver and achieve big race results and race wins – and I saw this Lexus Vasser Sullivan team as a great place to do that.

It’s quite clear that Jack is one of the best GT drivers out there and the team is one of the best teams that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

This is a huge opportunity being a part of something special with Lexus as they build upon their GT program and continue on a great trajectory.

I really thrive on the opportunity to be a part of that and a part of their continued success amongst the best GT programs in racing.

My debut race as a Lexus driver for the Vasser Sullivan team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona went extremely well.

It was my first time at Daytona and my first time taking part in the Rolex 24 race, but everyone in our organization did such a good job in preparing me for the event and none of it felt like a first time experience.

I was announced as a Lexus driver on Dec. 6, 2021, and from that point onwards we were working flat out to be ready for Daytona.

Photo: Ben Barnicoat Instagram

In the time from then until the end of January, I was fully-fledged within the facilities that Lexus, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Vasser Sullivan give us to be as prepared as we can.

I began training closely with Jack and spending quite a bit of time working together with Lexus, TRD and the Vasser Sullivan team to prepare myself for the IMSA season.

The off-track activities were also the perfect opportunity for myself and Jack to start our relationship as teammates.

Because of all this prior to the Daytona race, I felt as ready as I’d ever been for a race.

Obviously, it was a new race, but I felt so embedded into the team it made that step into IMSA racing and the Rolex 24 almost seamless.

It was our first time competing in GTD Pro as an organization, but I think we all came out of that weekend in a super strong place.

We had great pace, we stayed on the lead lap the entire way and were one of the cars fighting for the win.

Photo: Brett Farmer/IMSA

To leave that event in fourth place and finishing without any technical issues is a good start for our team.

It’s great to have some good championship points on the board and to be right in the mix heading into the rest of the season.

Jack and I have already got a strong working relationship but also a great off-track, ‘high banter’ friendship, which is extremely important to any successful partnership.

There’s a competitive element to the off-track stuff we do because we’re both young, we’re both hungry and we both want to be the best we can be. It’s just been a great dynamic and we’re really pushing each other hard and getting the best out of each other.

I’ll openly say I feel Jack is the best teammate I’ve ever had in my career to this point.

He’s super fit, he’s super talented and professional which has been a very good influence on pushing me off track. We come from extremely similar backgrounds in motorsport and also a similar part of the UK, so we are quite similar people.

That’s created somewhat of a big brother, little brother competitiveness between the two of us which only pushes us to be better and in turn will help get the best possible results on track which is great.

It’s a partnership that I hope can remain for many years to come because together I think we are a very strong force to be reckoned with.

Photo: Inception Racing

I’ve been quite busy since Daytona. I raced in the Asian Le Mans Series which went great for me. Since that finished though, the last three weeks leading into Sebring have been back to my normal routine.

I’ve been in Charlotte preparing for the race, on the simulator and in the fitness center with Jack. We’re pushing hard and making sure we enter Sebring as well prepared as we can, both physically and with our RC F GT3.

We all feel positive heading into Sebring. It will be my first time racing there, but I’ve tested at Sebring multiple times now and I’m confident with the track, comfortable in our Lexus RC F GT3 and in a great place within the team and my engineer Geoff Fickling.

There’s absolutely no reason we won’t be fighting for a strong result and hopefully leave the event closer to the top of the championship, building on what was a great start to the season that we had in Daytona.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. Lexus Racing is a huge family. You really do feel the family atmosphere.

Everyone is so supportive and doing everything they can to give us the best opportunities to succeed on the race track.

I felt so comfortable coming into the first race of the season because of that atmosphere and the family vibe that we have within the Lexus camp.

It’s been a huge pleasure to be a part of so far and I hope to be here for a long time. I’m really loving every second, I can’t wait to jump back in the car this week and hopefully get my first Lexus podium or win in the bag!

Photo: Lexus Racing

Ben Barnicoat is a factory Lexus driver, competing with Vasser Sullivan in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's GTD Pro class.

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