Ben Barker says it will be a privilege to feature in the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race for a second year in a row this weekend.
The Clare-raised driver realised a childhood dream when he made his debut in the world’s oldest sports car endurance race 12 months ago.
Barker covered 4,500km as he helped guide Gulf Racing to a strong fifth place finish in the LMGTE Am class last year.
And the 26-year-old is now set for a second appearance as he joins up with fellow Brit, Michael Wainwright, and Australia’s Nick Foster, as the pro driver of the Gulf Racing team.
Speaking to The Echo from his team’s base in Le Mans, Barker said: “It’s good to be back in Le Mans. Obviously we had a very good result last year here.
“We want to carry it on from last year’s Le Mans into this year’s race.
“The weather looks like it will be good, sunny and quite warm.
“It’s a privilege to be here for a second time and racing for the Gulf team again.”
This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 85th staging of the historic race, is the third round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship.
Barker and his Gulf Racing team find themselves in a similar position in the LMGTE Am Championship standings to where they were last year.
In 2016, Gulf Racing started the season with a retirement in the 6 Hours of Silverstone and a fifth place finish in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, while this year the team finished fourth in Silverstone, but were forced to retire in Belgium last month.
“We’ve had a bit of a struggle so far,” Barker admitted.
“In the first round we got fourth, which was okay, and in Belgium we didn’t get any points, but you’ve got to remember we’re using a new tyre this year.
“You never know how you’re going to do until qualifying, but it should be a good weekend.
“To finish on the podium is our ambition for sure. We want to go and do better than what we did last year.”
As well as competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, Barker will also be racing in the Road to Le Mans, the second round of this year’s Michelin Le Mans Cup.
“It’s my second time (racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans) but it’s still just as awesome as the first time,” he said.
“I’m a lot more familiar with the vibe around Le Mans, it feels like a festival during the week of the race.
“When you experience it for the first time it opens your eyes, it’s an amazing vibe to be around.
“I’ve got more of an idea of what to expect this year.
“It’s like going back to a music festival which you really enjoyed.
“It should be exciting and I can’t wait.”
n The 24 Hours of Le Mans race starts on Saturday at 2pm UK time and will be shown live on Eurosport.