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Lexus GTD Pro Signing Barnicoat “Thriving” in New Environment – Sportscar365

Lexus GTD Pro Signing Barnicoat “Thriving” in New Environment – Sportscar365

Lexus GTD Pro Signing Barnicoat “Thriving” in New Environment – Sportscar365

Photo: Ben Barnicoat media

Ben Barnicoat says he is currently “thriving off” his new environment of a factory GT Pro drive with Vasser Sullivan and Lexus in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Barnicoat joined Lexus ahead of the 2022 season after a four-year stint as a McLaren Automotive factory driver and will make his debut with the Toyota brand in next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, marking the start of his first full-season IMSA term.

Jack Hawksworth will be his partner in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 and Kyle Kirkwood will join them for the four Michelin Endurance Cup race.

Barnicoat told Sportscar365 that he had the option to renew his contract with McLaren but ultimately chose to pursue a new opening with Lexus, based on the manufacturer’s Pro-category commitment and the opportunity for a change of scenery.

“I had a great run in Europe last year and I was coming to the end of my contract with McLaren,” said Barnicoat.

“They were quite keen for me to stay and continue, because I was doing a good job there and I was happy. But racing in America is something that I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I started in sports cars. It’s a place I’ve wanted to be.

“When that phone call came, asking if I would be interested in the opportunity, it was something I had to go for and take. It was a surprise to me that it happened but I think it was due to my good form here in Europe.

“Im massively excited to be here. I have a team like Vasser Sullivan who are very good, and with a teammate such as Jack its a golden opportunity to come into the series and do a good job, and that’s what I want to do.”

Barnicoat added that Lexus’ approach to the highest tier of North American GT racing was a major driving factor in his decision to sign with the brand.

His McLaren race with JOTA last year saw him win the Pro class at Fanatec GTW Challenge Europe powered By AWS. This class is primarily for customer teams, while GTD Pro involves more full-factory efforts.

“I think the focus is much more on out-and-out Pro racing,” said Barnicoat.

“McLaren was always very much customer-focused, looking after the customer and maybe focusing more on Pro-Am.

“Whereas here at Lexus and Toyota, they have a big manufacturer effort and just want to put it all into a Pro car and doing as well as they can. It’s exactly what I want, and it greatly motivates me.

“It makes me work harder away from the track, with Jack and the engineers, just to give it our all.

“That’s something I’m thriving off at the minute. It’s a great pleasure to be a part this new family. I hope to be a part for many years.

“There’s no way to better yourself than putting yourself with a group of people like that.”

Barnicoat explained to us that his first contact with Lexus was through Hawksworth, who is also the longest-serving driver in the RC F GT3 program.

Despite both hailing from nearby cities in the north of England, the two former single-seater drivers haven’t previously raced together, but Barnicoat suggested that they are on course to form a strong partnership.

“It’s quite funny how it’s happened,” he said. “Jack and I had never actually spoke but he was the first guy who rang me and asked me.

“He’s their main guy and the one who’s shooting for the Pro title, so they gave him a bit of power and flexibility over who he wanted in the car.

“He just saw me as a good fit, young and hungry. He was the first one to ring me, but I had never spoken to him before that, even though we’re both British and lived literally 45 minutes to an hour apart from each other.

“So it’s quite strange, but since this opportunity started we’re getting on really well.

“We’re very similar people and have come from similar backgrounds with what we did in karting. So we’re getting on like a house on fire and we’re pushing each other.

“I’m still learning a lot of stuff from Jack, being new to IMSA, but once I get all that knowledge under my belt the plan is that were going to continue pushing each other to get better and better.”

Barnicoat made IMSA debut at Motul Le Mans two-months ago driving an Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3; he has now completed two days testing in the Lexus.

During a 2017 PirelliWorld Challenge spell with K-PAX Racing he also visited most of WeatherTech Championship circuits. However, he will be exploring new venues, including Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Road America.

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“It was a while ago, so it’s not like its fresh in my mind,” said Barnicoat. “But that was one of the reasons why I got the drive: had I not had that [2017]It wouldn’t have been easy, based on my experience. It definitely helped me, already having that under my belt.”

European GT3 Drives are Still Possible

Although the 10-round IMSA season will be Barnicoat’s priority in 2022, the 25-year-old is open to competing in one-off sports car races elsewhere during the year.

Barnicoat could make an appearance in events that don’t clash with his North American schedule, if Lexus is not racing in European GT3 Racing.

Last month, he won the Gulf 12 Hours in a Mercedes AMG GT3 Evo driven by the 2 Seas Motorsport team.

“That was one thing that I wasn’t allowed to do at McLaren: I could only race McLaren [GT3] cars,” said Barnicoat.

“I got a very special exemption to do Le Mans last year, as it was Brendan Iribe who is the best customer at McLaren. With Lexus, they’re being very good at allowing me to pursue these other opportunities in other series, provided Im not competing against a Lexus.

“I’ve got a couple of other things in the pipeline, which is great. But my main focus is on this championship and trying to do as well as we can here.”


Daniel Lloyd


Daniel LloydSportscar365’s UK reporter, Alex, covers the FIA World Endurance Championships, GT World Challenge Europe powered By AWS, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships, among others.


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