An impressive performance from Ben Barnicoat and his Vasser Sullivan teammates saw the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 score silverware on the first outing of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. The trio remained in the fight for the victory all the way until the final lap, scoring a podium result at the 61st running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and Ben scored his best result at the famous Daytona International Speedway, claiming P3 – just 10-seconds behind the race winner.
Driving with Jack Hawksworth and Mike Conway, Ben returned to the famous Florida circuit after a strong qualifying result at last weekend’s Roar Before the 24 event, staying in the mix at the front of the GTD Pro field for the duration of the twice-around-the-clock season opener.
Ben took the start of the race, and wasted no time in showing the intentions of the Vasser Sullivan team, making an early move from 3rd on the grid. His pace during the opening stint set up a strong showing from the team, and strategy calls came into play as early as the end of the first hour. Running longer, Ben moved into the race lead for the first time, running in clean air, and this strategy call would see the team on the front foot heading through the opening hours.
The setup of the #14 Lexus looked strong from the outset, and the trio continued the battle for the podium positions as the sun set. Battles intensified in the darkness and, as daylight returned to the Daytona sky, the Vasser Sullivan team was still firmly engaged in the fight at the front of the field. A Full Course Yellow caution brought the leading pack closer together, and with just over two hours remaining, Ben was in for his final stint, delivering another strong performance. With the gap closed to the leader, he made the pass for the lead, and held on at the front until he eventually pitted for a final time. Handing over to Jack, the final 90-minutes were heavily interrupted by further cautions as the closely grouped field of competitors battled for position. The #14 remained in the fight to the end, defending hard and battling for the lead. Strong strategy calls from the pitwall, faultless pitstops and impressive pace from Ben and his teammates eventually saw the #14 RC F GT3 cross the line in 3rd, for Ben’s best result at the event.
Commenting on the performance, Ben explained:
“What an amazing week, and a great way to start the 2023 IMSA season – a podium at Daytona! It is great to be back with the team for a second season, and the hard work over the winter was clear last week at the Roar. This result, and the fact we were in the fight right up until the end, shows just how far we have come. The car felt great all weekend, the team did a great job, and it was great to be back racing with Jack and to work with Mike.
“We had a great car, probably the strongest I’ve felt in our Lexus RC F GT3 since joining the team. We didn’t quite have the straight line speed to put up a real fight for the win at the end, but a huge thank you to Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing USA, as well as our sponsors Molex, Sealmaster and Mouser Electronics. Our overall package with the #14 RC F GT3 is in a great place, and this is a really strong foundation for the season ahead to go and fight for a championship. Bring on Sebring!”
Ben will be back in action with Vasser Sullivan for Round 2 of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. The Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring takes place at Sebring International Raceway, 15-18 March 2023.