Ben Barker produced another impressive performance as the FIA World Endurance Championship touched down in Mexico City at the weekend.
But luck once again denied the Gulf Racing team a spot on the podium in the 6 Hours of Mexico race at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit.
The Clare-raised driver and his team-mates set the pace in the LMGTE Am class during Thursday’s practice sessions, with Barker posting the fastest lap in session two.
A repeat performance in Friday morning’s final practice session set the Gulf Racing team up for qualifying, where Barker was again given the task of partnering Mike Wainwright in setting their grid position.
After the duo secured third on the grid in qualifying, the slot then improved to second following a technical infringement from one of the other teams, which gave the #86 crew added encouragement that a podium finish might be within their grasp.
With just one car ahead of him on the class grid, Barker knew he had to make the most of the long run to turn one if he was to take the early initiative.
And so he did with aplomb, not only beating factory driver Pat Long into the corner, but also one of the LMGTE Pro class Ferraris as well.
From there the 25-year-old established himself as the driver to beat, pulling out a three-second advantage over Long, with the rest of his rivals more than 20 seconds adrift by the end of his stint.
Sadly for the Gulf crew, however, the luck was still not shining their way and, shortly after Wainwright had taken over behind the wheel, a full-course caution neutralised the field, allowing those behind to complete their stops with little time penalty, wiping out the #86 car’s advantage.
Barker returned to the cockpit after Wainwright had completed a double stint and was beginning to eat into the deficit when rain arrived.
Third driver Adam Carroll had to contend with mixed conditions as he continued the fight back.
At the chequered flag the gap to the final podium place had been reduced to a little over 30 seconds, but the combined effort was not enough to earn some silverware.
“We just don’t seem to get the break that we need,” Barker sighed. “After making a great start and putting a PRO class car between myself and the AM field, we were looking good, but the full-course caution that followed our first driver change put us firmly on the back foot, and playing catch-up for the remainder of the race.
“Although the arrival of the rain might have given us a chance to capitalise on others’ mistakes, they simply weren’t forthcoming, so Adam and I were left to try and claw back the lost time without much help.
“Missing the podium was disappointing, especially after our strong performances earlier in the weekend, and provided no reward for the rest of the boys, who had done some sterling work, not only in honing the set-up, but once again providing us with some exemplary pit-stops”
Round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas over the weekend of September 15-17.