2 Seas Motorsport remains in title hunt after challenging Barcelona weekend
Ben Barnicoat and teammate Isa Al-Khalifa returned to the virtual cockpits of the McLaren 720S GT3 for the penultimate event of the season, but an early incident for championship-leader Ben saw him drop down the order and forced into a recovery drive
- 2 Seas Motorsport brings home both cars as the best-placed McLaren entries
- Isa Al-Khalifa scores his best result of the season in P22
- Ben Barnicoat recovers from an early incident to finish P12 and sits 3rd in the championship
The latest round of the SRO E-Sport GT Series Championship 2020 took place at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya this past weekend with 2 Seas Motorsport in action for the fourth Pro driver race of the season. After race victory during the last event, Ben Barnicoat and teammate Isa Al-Khalifa returned to the virtual cockpits of the McLaren 720S GT3 for the penultimate event of the season, but an early incident for championship-leader Ben saw him drop down the order and forced into a recovery drive, eventually coming home just outside the points in P12. Meanwhile, Isa continued his driver development programme and scored a season-best result, crossing the line in P22.
Carrying the maximum 25kg of success ballast following the dramatic race victory at the Nürburgring, the qualifying session saw McLaren Factory Driver Ben Barnicoat just 0.561 seconds off pole position. However, such is the competitiveness of the Assetto Corsa Competizione-based championship that this small margin put Ben in P11, while Isa would line up in P35 – qualifying 0.003 seconds behind former-F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi and ahead of McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, who made a championship guest appearance.
With the race starting in warm, sunny conditions, the grid made a clean start as it headed down to turn 1. A high-speed incident caused chaos in the mid-field, and while Ben narrowly avoided being collected, he was pushed wide at turn 2 and forced off the track as he reached turn 3. The off-track excursion dropped the #99 720S GT3 down to just outside the top-20 and, as was the case in Spa, from here Ben was then forced to switch to a recovery-mode drive rather than pushing for top-10 places in a bid to strengthen his grip on the title.
Isa Al-Khalifa, meanwhile, continued his run of form in the opening laps, and managed to avoid the melee. At the wheel of the #383 entry, the young Bahraini driver capitalised on the incident-filled opening few corners and moved ahead of his teammate and up in to the top 20. Once again, Isa then set about running his own race and focused on the task in hand which saw him posting consistent laptimes around the 4.655km circuit. With cars further up the field being handed drive-through penalties following the opening lap incidents, Isa progressed up the order to running in P17.
Ben also now looked to refocus, readjusting his approach to the race as he looked to work his way back up the field. By the 30-minute mid-point of the race, he had moved the blue and black 720S GT3 back up to P13 and in a three-way-battle for position, while Isa was following in close order running in P18.
With 25 minutes remaining, strong pace and the McLaren working well around the lap saw Ben pushing for position. The young Brit took the opportunity and made a move stick down the inside in to turn 1, but was tagged as he exited the corner which unsettled the car. While he was able to catch the slide and remained on the track, the contact again pushed him wide and the third car in the battle for P11 leap-frogged Ben which moved the #99 McLaren back to P12.
From here, both 2 Seas Motorsport McLarens ran without issue, with Ben and Isa continuing to push over each lap and running as the leading two McLaren Customer Racing entries. As the race reached the hour mark and the field crossed the finish line, Ben was unable to build his championship points, finishing in P12 and Isa took his best result of the season so far in P22.
Isa Al-Khalifa, 2 Seas Motorsport team co-owner and #383 McLaren 720S GT3 driver.
“That was a tough but enjoyable race, and the Circuit de Catalunya is a great track to drive. It is the first circuit of the season which I have previously competed at, and it was another busy start to the race, but I managed to avoid contact in the first few corners and kept out of trouble. The pace of the 720S GT3 was good throughout and the tyres felt strong all the way until the end, so my pace was consistent, and it is great to have scored my best result of the season so far. It was also a really good result for the team as 2 Seas Motorsport was the top two finishing McLaren Customer Racing entries.”
Ben Barnicoat, #99 McLaren 720S GT3 driver.
“It was a bit of a mixed weekend overall. The extra weight from the win last time out obviously had an impact, but overall the pace and performance were both strong. I felt we had a good chance of some points going in to the race, but I was unfortunate with the contact on the opening lap which obviously dropped me down the order. It was a fun race from there though, and the balance and set up of the car felt good so I was able to push. I am looking forward to seeing where the final round will take place, and I will be pushing as hard as possible for as many championship points as possible, so let’s see what happens!"
Ben Barnicoat now sits in 3rd place in the championship going in to the final round of the E-Sport GT Series Championship 2020. The location for the final round is being chosen by public vote via the SRO social media channels, with the race taking place on Sunday 21 June. Voting for the circuit location closes on Friday 5 June at 19.00 BST (20.00 CET).