Being in the right place at the right time can often pay dividends in the motorsports world and that’s certainly been the case for Ben Barker this year.
The 23-year-old Englishman, a rising star in Porsche Supercup, made his TUDOR United SportsCar Championship debut just three races ago in Detroit, filling in for GB Autosport team owner/driver Michael Avenatti.
With a back injury likely ruling Avenatti out for the remainder of the season, it’s opened the door for Barker, who steps into the Tully’s-sponsored Porsche 911 GT America, for what could be a career-defining opportunity in America.
Barker, who only stepped foot in the U.S. for the first time in May, credits his Supercup engineer, Mario Prezel, who also engineers GB’s Porsche, for his big shot in the TUDOR Championship.
“Mario really pushed for me to be in the car in America and thought I’d get on well with Michael, the team owner, and Damien [Faulkner, co-driver] and Cole [Scrogham, team manager] and all of the guys on the team,” Barker told Sportscar365.
“I’m super excited for the opportunity and hopefully making the most of it. The GT racing scene is so strong.”
While a relatively new name to fans on this side of the pond, Barker is no stranger to success in sports car racing, particularly with Porsche Cup machinery.
The former Australian F3 champion and 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain runner-up won his class in this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour and claimed victory in the hotly contested Porsche Carrera Cup support race at last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He currently sits third in the Porsche Supercup standings, with a podium finish already to his credit in only his second season of the highly competitive single-make championship.
While a foray into U.S. racing often comes as a challenge to many overseas drivers, Barker has been able to lean off his co-driver, Damien Faulkner, in coming to grips with the new surroundings at each race.
“Damien has obviously been to a lot of the tracks before. That’s a key point so I’m able to seek advise off of him for gears and things like that,” Barker said.
“The tracks actually relate a little bit to the U.K. They’re a little bit weathered and beaten up but full of character.
“That makes it challenging. There’s some challenging parts to these tracks, like Watkins Glen, that is a very high speed track.
“Here at Mosport, it’s a fairly bumpy track and a bit of camber and elevation involved.”
The first-year team, run by longtime team manager and strategist Cole Scrogham, has already been through its share of ups and down.
But that hasn’t detracted from Barker’s expectations, as he firmly believes a top result is around the corner, and it could very come in today’s round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“We’re looking for podiums,” he said. “Obviously a win would be amazing and there’s no reason why that’s not on the cards.
“It is a new team but all of the boys are 110 percent committed to producing a result. We’re all really passionate about getting a result. We’re working really, really hard.
“With limited testing, it’s a little bit tough, but to be honest, we’re making steps forward. I feel really privileged and very excited to be part of a growing team.
“I seriously think with all of us combined and putting our hard work and brains in it, we’ll eventually come out with a result.”
Barker has been racking up the frequent flyer miles this year, with full-season programs in Porsche Supercup, the European Le Mans Series with Gulf Racing and now his new expanded role with GB Autosport.
While he’ll miss next weekend’s ELMS round at the Red Bull Ring as well as the TUDOR Championship’s visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month due to his Supercup commitments, Barker is soaking each new opportunity, one race at a time.
“I’ve been absolutely loving it,” he said. “That’s part of being a professional driver, traveling and racing all over the world and having the ability to adapt to new cars.
“It’s great practice for me. Hopefully that will set me up for a strong end of the year this year and a super strong year [in 2015] with more experience.”
Barker is hopeful of eventually following in the footsteps of numerous other Supercup graduates, such as Richard Westbrook and Jeroen Bleekemolen, who have made the successful transition to American racing full-time.
“To be honest, I’m really enjoying it here and I’d really love to look for a full-time drive next year,” he said. “Hopefully some strong results will set me up for a career next year in America.”