Technical fault hits Barnicoat’s hopes

A faulty steering wheel prevented Ben Barnicoat challenging for a second podium appearance of the weekend in race two of the FIA European Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps, having to settle for 11th place instead.

Having scored a third place finish in the soaking wet, safety car-affected opener, Barnicoat lined up in fifth place on the grid for the dry second affair.

Having driven around the track twice ahead of lining up on the grid, Barnicoat prepared his car on the grid for the official formation lap ahead of the race start. When he attempted to set off however, his Mercedes-Benz-powered Dallara machine would not select first gear and he was left stranded on the grid with the rest of the pack filing past.

Barnicoat was wheeled into the pit lane where his Hitech GP team rapidly replaced his steering wheel. His car powered up and Barnicoat was able to start the race, although from the pit lane at the back of the field.

The Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver immediately began scything up the field, despite picking up a gashed front left tyre mid-way around the opening lap which would ordinarily have led to retirement.

Barnicoat rapidly made his way up to 11th position, but in the final 10 minutes of the race, he was unable to get a good enough tow to pass the Motopark car of fellow rookie Niko Kari, and was forced to settle for his position and miss out on a single championship point.

“I couldn’t believe my luck on the grid,” Barnicoat said. “Everything was fine on the way to the grid but I just couldn’t get it into first gear.

“I was very fired up after missing the start. Halfway around lap one, I then had a problem with the left front tyre, as a huge chunk came out of it but without it puncturing. I was able to manage that and came through the field. I was close to Kari but just didn’t have the opportunity to make a pass.

“Nevertheless, it was a good race and I enjoyed it although it was equally frustrating and a huge what-if moment. I could have managed another podium as the pace was there considering I had to come through traffic and manage the chunk out of the tyre.”

Barnicoat’s Hitech GP team-mate George Russell scored a comfortable victory ahead of Motopark’s Joel Eriksson with Mucke Motorsport’s Mikkel Jensen in third.