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PALMER: Barber Debrief

Andrew Palmer files his latest Sportscar365 column following Barber…

Photo: Absolute Racing

Photo: Absolute Racing

If we were a NASCAR team I would be pretty satisfied with our consistent top-10 finishes. However, we race in Pirelli World Challenge and I know Bentley Team Absolute can and will finish on the podium.

Going into Barber, I had already tasted our ability to challenge for the win with the Bentley Continental GT3.

At COTA we were running 2nd with three laps to go before a late race penalty demoted us to 10th. In Long Beach we were running 4th before oil caught us out.

At Barber, I felt comfortable in the car and with the track and believed we would be the cars to beat. It was a short turnaround between Long Beach and Barber which meant I only had one day off before heading to Alabama with my teammate Adderly.

This season is his first foray into the United States of America, so showing him the quirkier side of things is one of my priorities as a good teammate. On Monday I took him to my local neighborhood of Venice, CA.

I guess skate parks, street art, hipsters, and dispensaries are not huge in Hong Kong. We flew the next day to Alabama where we pulled a 180 and I introduced him to Cracker Barrel. Nothing like skate parks to biscuits in 24 hours.

Wednesday was a day devoted to system checks, track walks, and briefs about our run plan for the weekend.

What many fans might not know about Barber, is that it is without a doubt one of the nicest facilities in the world. Its grass is like a golf course, there are statues everywhere, and it is home to the largest motorcycle collection in the world.

I had never been to the museum so we managed to squeeze in a visit, which wasn’t nearly enough to see everything. If you’re a fan of motorsport it should be on your bucket list.

Unlike Long Beach, Barber had plenty of practice time. Both Thursday and Friday were completely devoted to practice.

From the first session on track we were near or at the top of the time charts. With rain forecasted for Friday, we decided to do qualy run simulations on Thursday.

Rain luckily held off Friday as well and both practice sessions were dry. Because we changed tire strategy, we used old rubber for Friday practice, but still managed to be in the fast group for qualifying.

Qualifying at Barber is tricky, especially when sharing the track with Indy Car. One thing fans may not think of is the different types of rubber being laid down on track and how that effects the balance of the car.

Unfortunately, Firestone rubber from Indy Car doesn’t help the Pirelli make more grip for the Bentley. However, this is the same for all of us so its something we work around with car set up.

In qualifying, other cars seemed to find speed that they were lacking in practice. Most drivers stayed out for almost the whole session trying to extract the best laptime the track would give them. In the end we secured a 7th place starting position for Race 1.

Both races were very similar for the entire field. After the start shook out there was little passing.

Barber is one of my favorite tracks in the world. When you are leading its awesome because its easy to make sure the competition cant pass. However, when you start 7th its tough and often have to take big risks to make moves.

In both races both my teammate and I finished almost exactly where we started. The drivers out there raced with respect in close quarters. While I wish the Bentleys were up on the podium, we learned great things for Mosport.

I’ve only been to the go kart track in Mosport when I was really young. It always treated me well so I hope the bigger track does the same! Until next time.

Andrew Palmer (@APalmerRacing) is a Rolex 24 at Daytona, Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans class winner, driving for Bentley Team Absolute in Pirelli World Challenge.

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