Tandy, Barker and Webster: issue 124 driver columns
It’s official. This June I will be following in the footsteps of Richard Attwood, Derek Bell and Allan McNish, all British drivers who have raced top class Porsches at Le Mans.
All three have also won at La Sarthe in Weissach machinery, so there’s no pressure to perform alongside Nico Hulkenberg and Earl Bamber in the third 919 Hybrid LMP1 car!
Joking aside, it’s a huge honour to be chosen by Porsche as one of their LMP1 drivers this year. When I signed as a factory driver in 2013, I knew about the prototype programme, so it was always an aim.
Just to be invited to test the car was an honour but, to see that my performances have paid off is brilliant, and it shows the faith in the strength of drivers that Porsche has across its programmes.
As a team, we haven’t had a great deal of time together, but I’ve been at the race track with Nico testing last year, have now completed a couple of race weekends with Earl in TUSC, and we’ve also all been at the factory together for the technical briefings and the seat fitting.
Ben Barker – the Supercup superstar:
For 2015, like last season, I returned to action at the increasingly competitive 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia, driving Grove Racing’s 997 GT3 Cup car.
Stephen Grove, who owns the team, had done a mega job to get prepared, upgrading the car with a completely rebuilt engine, a Holinger paddleshift system and new brakes. It was perfect for an endurance race and I was really impressed with his level of professionalism.
After putting in some quick times in practice, I was the qualifying driver but we had a small problem with the paddle shift system. With the problem lingering, I couldn’t turn the awesome car setup into an ultimate lap time. We still qualified second, four tenths off pole, which for a 12-hour race is not a huge hindrance.
Luke Youlden started for us, getting into the lead before starting to pull away. I jumped in second and put in a really good stint, extending the lead and setting the lap time we had expected in qualifying. We were looking really strong. Stephen did an awesome job too.
There’s now just a month to go until the new Carrera Cup GB kicks off. It’s been a long winter and much of it has been spent securing the sponsorship to get me back on the grid. My Porsche GB scholarship provides £80,000 towards the budget, but the balance is provided by my sponsor partners.
As well as keeping fit in the gym and learning tracks on my new simulator rig, securing the budget has taken up most of my time during the off-season. On my 21st birthday I was actually up in Leeds talking to a potential new partner so with eight hours in the car there were no wild celebrations!
Despite being the Carrera Cup champion, getting the budget in place for the year ahead is still hard but I enjoy the challenge. We don’t have management, it has always just been my family and me: Team Webster.
Some partners come on board through connections you’ve already built up (motor racing is, after all, about who you know a lot of the time) while cold contacting people, sending them a marketing pack can also work, but it’s harder to get results.