Ben Barker is set to realise a childhood dream when he makes his debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race this weekend.
The Clare-raised racing driver will take on the world’s oldest sports car endurance race for the first time, as he joins up with fellow Brits, Michael Wainwright and Adam Carroll, to form the Gulf Racing UK team.
Barker has had a mixed start to his debut season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with a retirement at Silverstone in April followed by a fifth place finish at the Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last month.
And ahead of the third round of the series in France this weekend, Barker is excited to compete in the legendary Le Mans race for the first time.
“I’m really excited,” the 25-year-old said. “It’s always been a childhood dream of mine and I’m looking forward to getting started in the car.
“When I got into car racing when I was 17 there was always an ambition to race in Le Mans.
“It’s been slightly out of reach but I knew I could potentially do it. I’ve put the hard work in in the races over the last seven or eight years.
“I’ve worked hard to get here and be worthy of being here.
“I can’t wait for the race and the battle to try and get on the podium if we can.”
Heading into Le Mans, Barker and his Gulf Racing UK team occupy sixth place in the LMGTE Amateur Teams standings, while in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, Barker sits in fourth place after two rounds of the season.
“It’s an exciting time of my life,” he said. “I want to make the most of these opportunities and hopefully this weekend will be the first of many racing in Le Mans.
“Obviously there is a big build-up for this race and it’s been going really well. We had the scrutineering (on Monday) and the driver parade which I’m really enjoying, but when the race starts all that has to be put to the side.
“To get on the podium would be amazing, to win it would be out of this world.”
The UK has provided the most winning drivers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race since it was first held back in 1923, with 32 Brits tasting success.
There have been nine occasions when an all-British team of drivers have won, with the last of those coming almost 50 years ago when Ron Flockhart and Ivor Bueb won in 1957.
Qualifying for this year’s race began last night and will conclude with two more sessions today, before the race starts at 2pm on Saturday.