British driver Ben Barker says Bathurst’s Mount Panorama Circuit is his favourite track in the world despite only getting to race on it once a year.
As 2017 comes to a close, Barker is already gearing up for 2018 as he prepares to take on his fourth Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour campaign in February with local squad, Grove Racing.
The 26-year old will share the team’s Class B Porsche with Stephen Grove and his son, Brenton Grove, as announced in November, while sporting a special livery for the event.
Barker ranks Mount Panorama Circuit and the Bathurst 12 Hour equal with infamous European events like the Le Mans 24 Hours, and says the key to winning is staying out of trouble.
“Bathurst is probably my favourite track in the world!” he exclaimed.
“It’s the most demanding mentally and physically as well because of the heat.
“It’s got demanding cambers, the elevation that’s involved in the track is challenging so it’s very technical, very unique and there’s nothing else like it really.
“Once you get yourself into that synchronisation and flow it’s really enjoyable, but it can bite!
“I can’t wait to do it, I love the event. It’s a busy event with lots of cars and GT3 cars so it’s very challenging.
“It’s become one of those staple events on the calendar which I think is up there with Spa 24 Hours, Le Mans, Daytona, all those big one-off events.
“Obviously, we’ll have the extra addition of another Grove in the car, so good opportunity for Brenton to get some miles under his belt and do his first Bathurst 12 Hour.
“I’m super excited to be driving with him and driving with Stephen again, it’s going to be good fun. It’s going to be a case of staying out of trouble as it always is at Bathurst.”
The Briton, who spent 2017 competing in the GTE-Am class of the FIA World Endurance Championship as the lead Pro driver for Gulf Racing, reflected on the season as ‘tough’, for many different reasons.
However, with two class podiums in the WEC this year with their older, 2016 model Porsche 911 RSR, Barker admitted he was happy with the results after facing numerous challenges throughout 2017.
“This season we’ve had our challenges, for sure,” sighed Barker.
“It’s an old car now, so we’re competing against newer cars like the 488 Ferrari and the Aston Martins which are always strong.
“We’ve had ups and downs, but we’ve had a couple of podiums too: We had a podium at Mexico in third, and then we had a second at Shanghai with Khaled Al Qubaisi, which was great and good to get those results, it helps the team and motivates the team.
“Le Mans was tough for us. We were unfortunate in having a disadvantage with the BoP by a considerable amount, so it was crazy and a very hard event to get through.”
Barker sure is no stranger to Australian motorsport. In 2010, at 19-years of age, Barker won the Australian Formula 3 Championship by a single point after a thrilling finale at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway.
He then went on to ‘tin tops’ in 2011, taking on Australia’s most competitive one-make series, Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, where he finished fifth in the championship as well as taking home some Pole Positions and race wins.
The Londoner eagerly wants to race more ‘down under’, but says a full time return to Australian motorsport is not on the cards in the near future.
“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest just because it’s quite a small world out there as far as GT racing is concerned.
“The only championship there, is obviously Australian GT and then V8 Supercars but that’s slightly different and very hard to get into.
“I’d like to do a bit more down there, but I wouldn’t say I’m pushing it just because I haven’t got the current contacts out there.
“I’d love to do that and to do those Endurance Cup rounds in the V8 Supercars, but again, it’s quite hard to prize your way in, they’re pretty kind of firm on their driver line ups and there’s a lot of decent local Australian drivers who obviously deserve a drive.
“So, it’s quite hard to compete against those, but I’d take any opportunity to go and do that.
“It’s a series that I’ve watched for many, many years and it’s a series that I respect and it’s great racing.”
An announcement on Barker’s full season 2018 commitments in Europe is expected in the coming months.