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Barnicoat: Hard to prepare for "extreme" Super Formula debut after late call-up

Ben Barnicoat says he is relishing the “extreme” challenge of making his Super Formula race debut at Autopolis as a replacement for Theo Pourchaire.

Ben Barnicoat, VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Team Impul revealed on Tuesday that Barnicoat will step into its #19 car for this weekend’s second round of the season, following last week’s news that Theo Pourchaire will not return to the Japanese series to focus on IndyCar with Arrow McLaren.

Lexus IMSA SportsCar Championship full-timer Barnicoat had his first taste of Super Formula machinery in last December’s post-season test with TOM’S, setting the fastest time in the final rookies-only session.

But, having travelled to Japan straight off the back of last weekend’s Laguna Seca IMSA round, Barnicoat is under no illusions as to the challenge he faces at Autopolis.

“To get the call up from Toyota was incredible,” Barnicoat told Motorsport.com. “I felt like I did a good job when I drove for TOM’S, but I definitely didn’t expect to be in a race seat.

“It’s so last-minute so it’s been hard to prepare, but I’m really looking forward to it. Autopolis looks like a fun track, quite fast and flowing, similar to Suzuka, which is nice because I can take what I learned there and hopefully it won’t be too far off. 

“It will be a physically demanding race. I feel like I’m in good shape, but these cars are much faster than GT3 cars, so it will be quite a big physical challenge.

“I feel like I’m good at adapting to new situations quickly and that’s a strength of mine. But this is quite extreme!”

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Pourchaire’s sudden departure from Super Formula came off the back of a disappointing opening round of the season at Suzuka, where the Frenchman finished 18th.

Barnicoat however says he isn’t discouraged by Pourchaire’s struggles, highlighting Ryo Hirakawa’s victory at Autopolis with Impul in 2022.

“Theo had a tough time at Suzuka, but the team has achieved great results in the past,” he said. “Only a couple of years ago Ryo [Hirakawa] won at Autopolis. 

“So they know what they are doing and they have a wealth of experience. I’m sure they can teach me a lot.”

Barnicoat is only confirmed at Impul for this weekend’s Autopolis round, and the 27-year-old stressed he remains content with his current IMSA duties with Lexus and isn’t holding out any hope of a full-time return to single-seaters.

“Being realistic, I haven’t raced single-seaters for four years,” said Barnicoat, referring to his FIA F3 and Euroformula Open outings with Carlin in 2020.

“I think I did a good job in the rookie test, but nobody is expecting me to come here and win. I just want to do a solid job like I did at Suzuka and fill that void while they search for a full-time replacement.

“I'll do the best job I can, and then anything that comes off the back of that, I’ll see it as a bonus. I don’t think this will change the direction of my career or anything.”

Motorsport.tv will provide live coverage of all Super Formula races in 2024, including this weekend's second round at Autopolis.

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