Gulf Racing may be the smallest team in the FIA World Endurance Championship paddock, but it has still been able to compete successfully against much larger teams.
The No. 86 Porsche 911 RSR races in GTE-Am with Michael Wainwright, Adam Carroll and Ben Barker behind the wheel.
Speaking to Sportscar365 at last month’s Six Hours of Nürburgring, Barker explained the logistics of the team and his hopes for the remainder of his debut WEC season.
“It’s been going great and it’s a new learning experience, being in a new championship,” Barker told Sportscar365.
“I’m absolutely loving it and I’m with Gulf Racing, a British team, and they’re doing a fantastic job. I’m loving being part of the World Endurance Championship.”
2016 is the first season in the WEC for the 25-year-old, whose career so far has included several Porsche Carrera Cup and Super Cup seasons along with Porsche GT experience in both the European Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship during 2014.
Based in Milton Keynes, less than 20 miles from Silverstone, the team is entirely British. It has a British crew and three UK-based drivers, in Barker, Wainwright and Carroll.
“Everyone is British in the team, not because we’re nationalists and only like British people, but purely because it’s based in the UK,” Barker explained.
“The head mechanic, Mikey [Brown], has pulled together a lot of the guys that he thinks are good enough for the job, and it just happens to be that we’re all British. There’s a very good vibe going on.”
After a rocky start at Silverstone following a crash with a Porsche 919 Hybrid, the team bounced back and delivered a very promising performance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In a 13-strong field, Gulf Racing came through to finish fifth at the iconic French endurance classic, ahead of much larger outfits including Aston Martin Racing and AF Corse.
“You’ve got the challenges of a race weekend that every team has to hurdle, and to be honest at Le Mans we were probably one of the best teams out there,” Barker said.
“I had the fastest average over 20 laps, as far as times were concerned, so the car was quick. Adam [Carroll] was very fast as well, and Mike [Wainwright] did a really good job and stayed out of trouble.
“Ultimately, we needed to find a little bit more pace and [if we did], we would have for sure been on the podium.
“Nevertheless, everyone in the whole team did a fantastic job there and we’re more than capable of sticking it to the other teams.”
That is exactly what the team has been able to prove itself capable of doing – out-doing much more established competition.
However, despite his team’s comparatively small size, Barker doesn’t see himself at a disadvantage as compared to his rivals in GTE-Am.
“For me personally, it’s no different to if I were in a big team, because you still get in and do the job as a driver,” he said.
“The team is small but very efficient and everyone knows their role and is very good at it, and nothing is missed.
“I think we’re as good as any other team out there, if not better. We’ve got some of the quickest pit stops in the pit lane and a lot of the other teams, and certainly Porsche as a manufacturer, are very impressed with what we’re doing.”
The trio clocked another fifth-place class finish at Nürburgring and now heads into the flyaway portion of the season.
Barker explains that his team is well-prepared for the non-European rounds, owing to many crew members’ previous flyaway experience.
“The team has been abroad quite a lot with other cars over the years, and all the mechanics individually have done a lot of big championships where they’ve flown around the world,” he said.
“Everyone is used to it, but we just all need to collaborate as a team like we have been doing.
“It’s no different to being Europe, really, when you’re in Mexico or Austin. The setup and format is exactly the same, so that’s not a worry for anyone.
Mexico City is next on the WEC calendar, and Barker is looking forward to restarting the season with his first race at the recently-revamped Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track.
“Mexico City is a big one because it’s new, [but also] Fuji will be amazing so I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “I love going to Austin, and I’ve been there a few times so really enjoy it.
“I’m looking forward to them all, and there’s not one I specifically like, I just want a good result at all of them.”