McLaren GT3 factory squad member Ben Barnicoat will leave the manufacturer at the end of this year, the British driver announced on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old became a McLaren Automotive factory driver at the start of 2018, but was affiliated to the brand in preceding years through junior development programs in single-seaters and GT racing.
Barnicoat’s four-year spell as a factory driver included helping to develop the McLaren 720S GT3, a car that he drove to second place at the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour alongside Tom Blomqvist and Alvaro Parente.
Barnicoat, whose next program is set to be revealed in the coming days, said that McLaren has been a “huge part of my life and career”.
“I started my relationship with the team at the age of 13, when Indy Lall scouted me to be a part of the famous Formula 1 young driver program, and that is where this journey really began for me,” he reflected.
“The team supported me throughout my single-seater career, with the Racing Steps Foundation, and then when it became apparent that GT racing was the direction that I was going to go, McLaren was there again to support me and give me my first shot at being a professional racing driver.
“Initially this was as part of the McLaren GT Academy before progressing into the full factory role in 2018. From the point of becoming a Factory Driver, I am incredibly proud of everything we, as a team, have done and achieved together.”
After successful 2017 campaigns in Pirelli World Challenge with K-PAX Racing and Blancpain GT with Strakka Racing, Barnicoat was promoted to McLaren’s factory driver pool.
His first year of factory racing with the company focused on a season in the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, driving a Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3.
At the end of the year, he was assigned to give the McLaren 720S GT3 its race debut at the Gulf 12 Hours ahead of the car’s global customer rollout the following season.
The 2019 and 2020 seasons saw Barnicoat diversify into LMP2 with Carlin alongside a handful of different McLaren GT3 outings, but he embarked on a full-time racing role with the 720S this year as one of JOTA’s drivers in GTWC Europe Endurance and Sprint.
“To be a part of the GT3 development, and to debut the car at the [Gulf 12 Hours] event in Abu Dhabi was an amazing moment for me,” he said.
“Building on that, I have had many great races in the car, racing with some great teams and teammates across the world.
“There have been a number of highlights with the 720S GT3 but finishing second at the Bathurst 12 Hour in 2020 really does stick out. It was such a special race, a huge team effort, and the first big endurance race we had run with the car.
“We had a great team, great support from the factory, and the whole event felt like a real milestone for the car.
“From this result, and standing on the podium, it was a real springboard to it becoming one of the world’s best GT3 cars, which, no matter where I end up, I’ll always feel a part of.
“I’d like to thank each and every individual that I have worked with during my time at McLaren – far too many names to list off – but particularly Indy Lall from the Formula 1 team, Ian Morgan and Dan Walmsley from Customer Racing, and Mike Flewitt for the support over the years and really believing in me.
“They gave me the chance to progress, shaping me into the driver that I’ve become. I’ll never forget these years where I have earnt my stripes as a professional driver thanks to their support.”
Barnicoat’s announcement of the end of his spell with McLaren comes a day after the company announced Marvin Kirchhofer as a new addition to its factory driver roster.