Dusting off an old interview with McLaren Young Driver Development Programme’s and current F3Europe driver Ben Barnicoat, on the day of his 19th birthday…
(Interview by S.Murtas – realized and published in August 2012)
Ben Barnicoat, the new star of international karting, superbly supported by ART GP team, has done pretty much what Julius Caesar, the ancient Rome dictator, did in one of his war campaigns throughout Europe: he came, he saw, he won.
In his first full international season, and his debut season in KF2, the British talent is the outright king of European karting. But the win of the continental crown at PFI is only the beginning, as “the Caesar” is ready for new titles to conquer.
Ben’s racing style is relentless (typical of British drivers), his motivation recalls that of true champions, and yet he’s only 15 years old. With his fantastic performance at PFI in the 2nd round of the KF2 European Championship, Ben Barnicoat surprised us all for being a very effective, unyielding driver, as well as very fast (but who didn’t know that?). And before he moves up to single-seaters – which might happen sooner than most think – we talked to the champ himself about his intense, exciting karting career.
We know you from your exploit in the British championships, and few appearances at European level, but what a debut…!
“Sure, it’s my first full European season, it’s my debut season in KF2 and it’s been quite good for me so far. I wasn’t expecting to be winning in my first season, but I’ve got some good placements in the WSK series after having to adapt to the new category in the first part of the season. I managed to win the European Championship with two good performances, while in the U18 World Championship it’s not been a smooth run so far. I had an engine problem in the second round and I have quite a big gap in the championship standings, so it will be very difficult to win it. If I do well in Bahrain, I can still make it to the top 5.”
Why did you decide to move up category and start your international campaign at the same time?
“During the winter I did some tests with the KF2 at PFI and my team was really pleased with my pace. So we thought it was time to step up to KF2 class. Then we made the real debut in KF2 at the Winter Cup, the first race of the season, and I have to say that despite the final not going too well for me, I was really happy with my performance.
From then on I knew I had a strong base on which to build, but to be honest with you I didn’t think I could have won the European title this year.”
‘I came, I saw, I won’. This is what ancient Rome’s dictator Julius Caesar said about one of his wars, and it perfectly fits your season.
“It’s really amazing to have won the European KF2 Championship in my first year. In the first round in Wackersdorf I had a very good pace in practice, I stopped the 3rd fastest time in qualifying but I was excluded for a tech problem in the engine. I had to start the heats from last place but I managed to get to the fi nal stage nonetheless. In Race 1 I finished 5th from 22nd on the grid, while in Race 2 I finished 2nd. An outstanding weekend!”
Then, Round 2 was on Ben’s home circuit at PF International in the UK. He proved fast and consistent all weekend, stopping 4th fastest in qualifying and finishing the heat session 6th overall (3 wins, one 2nd place and one 24th) only due to the crash with Verstappen, which made his weekend more difficult but ultimately proved fatal to the Dutch.
“Racing the second round at PFI in front of my fans was a big push for my motivation. That’s not to say that it was an advantage – it was to some extent mainly at mental level – because most of my rivals are used to learn the track very quickly and adapt to it. But I have to say that I did my very best all weekend, also thanks to ART Grand Prix team that provides me with top material. Getting 3rd in Race 1, despite crashing out in Race 2 after having fought for the win for most of the race, proved enough for the title.”
European title in KF2 after three seasons in Cadet and three seasons in KF3 at national level. Tell us how it all started…
“I started karting in 2005 towards the end of the season. I happened to go to a track in Cornwall in the south of England and rent a go-kart, when I decided I wanted to enter a real race. Then I went to PF International, the track near my house, and bought my first kart. We did some testing at PFI, and my karting adventure was on. I raced three seasons in Cadet class, then I moved up to KF3 and I won the Kartmasters British Grand Prix twice in 2010 and 2011. Last season I found the backing from Racing Steps Foundation and I had my first go at international events in KF3. Unfortunately my lack of experience was the key factor and I didn’t manage to go beyond the qualifying heats both in the European Championship and World Cup.”
You are part of the Racing Step Foundation and McLaren Young Driver Development programmes. Tell us more about it.
“In 2010 I was signed to the McLaren Young Driver Development programme following a quite successful season. Then, last year I became part of the Racing Step Foundation programme – which has very strong links with ART Grand Prix due to the GP2 and GP3 series – and I joined ART Grand Prix team. Big part of my success is due to this opportunity I’ve been given, as ART GP confirmed to be extremely professional and competitive in karting too.”
Considering you are part of the RSF programme and you’ve already won the European title, will you move up to single-seaters next season?
“Well, I still don’t know. We haven’t talked about this with RSF and ART GP just yet, but I hope I will be able to continue to prove myself with a top team. Whether it will be in karting or in Formula racing I still don’t know, mainly it’s up to RSF to decide. Of course, I would like to race in single-seaters next season, but the decision is yet to be taken.”
Discretion and caution aside (as well as a bit of superstition too), it’s clear that ART Grand Prix Team Manager Armando Filini will have to work hard if he is to keep the British talent racing karts for another season.