Ben Barnicoat grabbed a dream class win debut in the 2018 British GT Championship and with it leads the series following the opening round at Oulton Park.
After racing abroad in various single-seater and sportscar series for the last five years, the Chesterfield 21 year-old sportscar racer is now a factory-team driver for McLaren Automotive: the sportscar arm of the McLaren F1 team.
For the 2018 season he is racing in the UK again and McLaren have placed him as the ‘Pro’ driver to partner ‘Amateur’ gentleman driver, Adam Balon with the Track-Club team, sharing a McLaren 570S in the GT4 – mildly modified – British GT category.
Barnicoat qualified the McLaren 10th in the 21 car GT4 class and 24th out of a capacity 35 car grid.
Round 1 began with Balon starting at the wheel for 8 laps, but after a pit stop by the time Barnicoat re-joined the track their 570S had dropped to 23rd and 6th in class.
Soon it became apparent why Barnicoat is valued so much by McLaren Automotive.
Within 2 laps, he had hustled the car 9 places through the field into the GT4 class lead and 14th place overall!
Rather handily all the McLaren top brass were at the race too, so he gave a good impression in front of the right people.
Barnicoat reeled off the remaining laps having pulled out a 10.4 seconds GT4 lead margin by the time the chequered flag fell.
With ear-to-ear grins on the podium, Barnicoat and Balon had two trophies – for GT4 category race win and Pro-amateur pairing category 1st-place - to hold aloft.
For round 2, later in the day with Barnicoat the starting driver, the race began in torrential rain under controlled circumstances behind the Safety Car for four laps of the one hour race, before being red-flagging and pausing the race for 45 minutes.
By then huge puddles were forming on corners and with rivers running across the track the officials decided it was too risky to go racing and cancelled the rest of the meeting.
A little further down the grid was the 22 year-old fellow Chesterfield racer, Sennan Fielding sharing a Toyota GT86 GT4S in its debut race for the Stellar Performance team.
Having been baulked in qualifying they lined up on the grid a bit too far back for comfort for Fielding, 19th in GT4S and 33rd overall.
Running in formation with their sister car, they climbed the running order slowly, Fielding took over the Toyota in 15th making up further places to cross the line 13th in class.