It was a case of back to business for Ben Barnicoat, as the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship visited Lime Rock Park for round 7. The #14 Lexus RC F GT3 showed strong pace across all sessions, converting a front row start to a sixth podium finish of the season, thanks to quick pitwork and a well-managed strategy on the Vasser Sullivan pitwall. Ben, and teammate Jack, claimed P2, just 0.322s off the top step, to keep them at the front of the field heading into the final stages of the season.
Arriving in Connecticut, the team was looking to bounce back from the last time out, and were immediately on the pace in the opening practice sessions. The Sealmaster-backed Lexus was firmly in the mix as the team worked to optimise the setup around the short, narrow Lime Rock Park circuit, ending both opening sessions just off the top spot in P2. From here, Jack once again took on the responsibility of qualifying, choosing to leave it later in the session before setting a time to provisionally secure a front row grid slot. As the time ran down, improvements were being made across the GTD Pro field, and Jack improved further, setting the fastest first sector, but would eventually cross the line to secure P2.
The North East Grand Prix got underway in warm, sunny conditions on Saturday afternoon, with Jack at the wheel. With no prototypes racing as part of the weekend, the smaller grid of 20 GTD Pro and GTD made a clean start, and Jack held P2 throughout the stint. At the 30-minute mark, a rapid pitstop saw the Lexus jump into the lead of the cars which had stopped, as strategies started to come into play. The first Full Course Yellow caution with two hours remaining then saw another stop, and as the race resumed shortly after, the original grid order had been restored with Jack and the #14 sitting in a strong P2.
Ben took over with just over 70 minutes of the race to go, running P3 on the road, as the strategies played out and the order continued to shuffle. He continued to push, immediately on the pace and looking to close down the leaders. Just before the hour to go mark, quick reactions ensured Ben steered clear of an incident as one of the GTD competitors was involved in an incident, bringing out another full course caution.
After a final scheduled stop, the race resumed with all strategies now set for the sprint to the finish line, and the field closed back up. Running back in P2, and firmly on the tail of the race leader, Ben worked to see if there was a way through as the clock ticked down. At the line, the fluro yellow and black Lexus RC F GT3 came home just 0.332s off the lead, securing Ben and Jack a sixth podium from seven races and extending the lead at the top of the championship standings.
Commenting after his return to the podium, Ben explained: “That was a really good race for us. P2 is an amazing result here at Lime Rock, especially in terms of championship points. Obviously, you want to try and win every race, but that was about as good as we could have done, without standing on the top step of the podium.
“The Vasser Sullivan guys did an amazing job on pit wall with strategy. This result was entirely down to strategy because, with it being a tight, twisty, and narrow track, overtaking is pretty much impossible. All of the Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing crew on the pit wall really did their job for us, Jack made an amazing start and a great opening couple of stints, and handed it off to me in a position to do the job. Luckily, we just beat the #9 car out of the pits, and I had a chance to have a go for the lead at the end. It was a great day and thanks to all of the team.”
Ben is back in IMSA action for round 8 at the start of August, as the championship heads to Road America, 3-6 August.