Ben Barnicoat on the podium

Ben Barnicoat back on the podium at Laguna Seca to extend IMSA championship lead

The #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 was back in action over the weekend as Ben and his teammate, Jack Hawksworth, took on the latest round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Challenge. A chaotic race event saw the pair fight through the field to continue a successful start to the 2023 season, scoring a P2 finish to extend the lead at the top of the GTD PRO championship standings.

Remaining in California, round 4 of the series headed to WeatherTech Laguna Seca, with the pair in a fine run of form. Fresh from winning during their last outing, they were looking to continue the run of podium finishes, which date back to July last season. After productive practice sessions, the Lexus looked to be running well for qualifying, with Jack taking on the shootout. Strong pace across the field saw the #14 Lexus in the fight during the session, but the final result saw Jack and Ben line up in P4.

Jack took the start of the race and was immediately in the thick of the action as the order changed into the first corner, pushed wide and off track. The battles continued throughout the entirety of the lap, as cars jostled for position. Shortly after, an incident brought out the first Full Course Yellow, which was followed in quick succession by a further caution. The first strategy call saw Jack pit for tyres and fuel, and quick work by the Vasser Sullivan team gained a position to recover back to the original starting slot. With the race restarted, Jack moved forward two spots at the hour mark, after a bold move on the same lap as the leader was handed a drive through penalty.

After 90 minutes, Ben took over the wheel of the battle-scarred Lexus RC F GT3 with the race under another caution period. As the track went back to green, Ben was on the rear bumper of the final podium position, and he looked for opportunities to make a move during his first laps. Despite carrying some front-end damage, his pace remained consistently strong around the 2.238-mile lap and, with just over an hour remaining, a decisive move gained the 26-year-old Brit two positions, back up to P2.

The final scheduled stop saw a full service and a change of tyres, and Ben was sent on his way, charging for the chequered flag. He remained in touch with the podium positions as the order changed over the pitstop window, but with work to do to deal with traffic ahead. Managing the tyre life during the stint, he continued to push and was in a three-car battle for the final podium position, before the two leaders were handed penalties for Safety Car period infringements. Ben continued to press as he struggled with grip but, when an opportunity presented itself, he wasted no time in making a calculated but bold move with his RC F GT3 in the closing laps. From here, he defended hard and worked to maintain position to the line, finishing P2. The result keeps the momentum behind the championship challenge, extending the advantage at the top of the standings, and is the eighth consecutive podium finish for Ben and Jack as they and Vasser Sullivan continue to impress.

Stepping off the fourth podium of the year, Ben explained: “It was an amazing day to get second place at Laguna Seca. What a race! So much happened, and it looked so good and so bad at different points. The last stint was really hard, running on very old tyres. It was a real handful due to tyre life compared to the people I was racing, but it came to us in the last five minutes. Running in third place, the opportunity opened to pass P2, so I put my Jack Hawksworth hat on, sent it and managed to get by. To come home with a P2 finish and still leading the championship is pretty incredible. I feel a little bit heartbroken not to have the chance to fight for a win, but it was still great to come away in that position. A huge thank you to Lexus and the Vasser Sullivan team for a massive effort.”

The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship now heads east, to Watkins Glen, for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen event, 22-25 June.