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Barnicoat Feels “On the Radar” For Toyota Hypercar Drive

Hypercar test outings, Super Formula race appearance strengthen Barnicoat’s Toyota ties…

Photo: MPS Agency

Lexus IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship ace Ben Barnicoat feels he is increasingly “on the radar” of Toyota Gazoo Racing as he pursues a future opportunity in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar class with the Japanese marque.

Barnicoat’s remarks follow outings in both Toyota LMH machinery and in Japan’s Super Formula series since claiming the IMSA GTD Pro title last season alongside Jack Hawksworth for the Vasser Sullivan Lexus squad.

Both Barnicoat and Hawksworth were given a try-out in the Toyota GR010 Hybrid in last year’s post-season WEC rookie test in Bahrain off the back of their title success.

Since then, Barnicoat further strengthened his ties to Toyota by appearing in Super Formula’s post-season test at Suzuka, which preceded a chance to make his race debut in the series at Autopolis for Team Impul last month.

Ahead of this week’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, which Barnicoat will contest for the AF Corse LMP2 team, Barnicoat believes that these outings have brought him closer to Toyota as he aims to put himself in the frame for a Hypercar drive.

I’ve been very clear and open that it’s my goal to race in Hypercar, and now I have established this relationship with Toyota, I don’t have in mind to achieve that with any other manufacturer besides them,” Barnicoat told Sportscar365.

“I’m in a very different position now compared to a year ago following my title success in IMSA, a successful Rookie Test in the Hypercar and more recently doing a good job in Super Formula despite it being so last-minute.

I’m far more on their radar, so I feel like a good result here [at Le Mans] could get me one step closer to my dream.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen revealed that Barnicoat made a second WEC testing appearance for the marque at Portimao in March.

“Ben did another test this year at Portimao, but there was a lot of rain and there was no further chance to really test,” said Leupen. “He just did a few laps. 

“He is part of the Toyota family, like [reserve driver] Ritomo [Miyata], so we like to put him in the car when possible.

“We are restricted on testing, so you need to get as much mileage possible done with all the drivers you have, but he had a superb season in IMSA last year in GT3.

“There is a family that we would like to expand and share, and we are working closely together with TRD on several projects. So it’s good he gets these opportunities.”

Barnicoat Eager for First “Clean” Le Mans

Barnicoat is making his fourth Le Mans appearance this week and his second in succession with AF Corse, sharing a car with Francois Perrodo and Nico Varrone in the Pro-Am subclass.

The 27-year-old Briton says he’s aiming to make amends for last year’s race, when he suffered a race-ending crash at the Porsche Curves in the morning hours, as well as previous disappointments in GTE machinery.

“Personally I haven’t had a clean Le Mans yet,” Barnicoat said. “Last year I made a mistake and cost us a shot at the win.

“In 2022 we had a chance of a good result with Brendan [Iribe] in the Project 1 Porsche but it didn’t work out, and in 2021 [with Inception Racing] we had an issue in the pits.

“It would just be nice for me to have a clean one and bank that experience.”

Barnicoat added that he and his AF co-drivers are not worrying about the possibility of challenging for an overall LMP2 win, preferring to focus solely on Pro-Am.

“Our mindset is to focus on Pro-Am,” he said. “We have a really experienced gentleman driver with Francois, so we want to focus on trying to win that and then if anything else comes of it, then that’s a bonus.

“I’ve seen other people saying that they want to focus on overall, but that’s not our goal.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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