Since making his debut in McLaren’s Pirelli-equipped 650S GT3 racer at the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia in February, Barnicoat has had a busy season. He has contested the full Blancpain GT Series in Europe for Strakka Racing, taking in the five Sprint Cup events and five Endurance Cup events.
“We showed some good promise at the start of the year,” he says. “We had some very good pace at Misano and Monza, as well as Brands Hatch, which was nice at home. But then from then onwards we went through a bit of a tough time. Even at Misano and Monza, the speed was there, but we had bad luck. And then through the middle of the season we started struggling quite a bit for pace. The guys at Strakka and McLaren were working very hard but for whatever reason we just couldn’t get it to happen. So that was a tough period to go through really.”
Barnicoat was also competing however in the Pirelli World Challenge, the premier GT series in North America, in a 650S for K-PAX Racing. Joining up with his Blancpain GT Sprint colleague and experienced McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente for the championship’s SprintX events, he claimed three podium finishes.
“That had been going really well, which kept my hopes up,” he explains. “It was a good thing for me to keep going and do well over there with Alvaro. It was my first time racing in the States. The Pirelli World Challenge is a great series and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
How different has he found GT racing to what he’s done before? “When I did the one race last year with WRT, that one at first didn’t seem like too much of a big change. But when you’re fully involved like I have been this season in the McLaren programme, I got a lot better understanding of it, and it is a lot different.
“For starters you’re sharing a car and that’s something that I’d never had before. So when you’re trying to develop a car like we have been doing, it really took all three of us in the Endurance series, and me and Alvaro in Sprint, to really work hard together to get a balance that was right for all of us and get it working. It was challenging at times but it was good for me as a driver to learn at a young age what it’s all about and it’s definitely made me a stronger driver for the future.”
Progress was clear to see in the final events of the Blancpain season: “At the Nurburgring we seemed to get our speed back; we just kept on working and it finally came back to us. We were very fast but we had a few missed opportunities with incidents and stuff.”
Then, for the Endurance Cup finale at Barcelona, Barnicoat switched cars within the Strakka camp, teaming up with two new team-mates in Sam Tordoff and Jonny Kane. Driving the middle stint in the three-hour race, Barnicoat took over the car in 29th place and carved his way up to ninth before handing over to Kane. In the process, he set the fastest lap of the race, nearly four tenths of a second faster than anybody else, after achieving the same at the Nurburgring.
Two weeks later, he returned to America and claimed a podium finish in the inaugural California 8 Hours, part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. His strong end to the season is a positive sign for whatever comes next.
“It’s been a mixed year,” he concludes, “but all in all I’ve enjoyed the whole experience, and it’s been great to get the races in America as well as here and learn some new tracks. I’m looking forward to the future.”