During the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, Racing24-7.net had the chance of getting a quick interview with Aston Martin Racing factory driver Darren Turner.
Unfortunately, he was in a bit of a rush, since they had driver change practice coming up, but we still managed to get a few words from him.
Turner has been with Prodrive, who runs the Aston Martin Racing programme, since 2003. He was racing a Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello for the first two years, before the programme switched to Aston Martin DBR9’s instead. He raced for four years in that car at Le Mans, including two wins in the GT1 category, before jumping into the Lola Aston Martin LMP1 car for two seasons.
AMR wanted to do their own car in 2011, which was one of the biggest failures in the history of Le Mans, only doing very few laps at the start of the race, before both cars retired for good. Then their focus moved to GTE, where they have raced ever since.
On top of all the GTE Pro racing, Turner has been part of their Nürburgring 24 Hours and VLN lineup too for many years, plus British GT, European Le Mans Series, IMSA, GT1 World Championship, and wherever else Aston Martin Racing has popped up over the years.
During the free practice sessions, the car appeared to be reliable but they were quite a bit off the pace compared to especially Ford and Porsche.
But we asked Darren Turner about how he felt about the brand new Aston Martin Vantage.
“We feel as prepared as we can be. We’ve done a lot of testing, it’s been good, and the car has been running well. I think that we are happy with the balance of the car. Obviously we need to find a bit of performance, but we will see what we can do. The main thing is to try and have a clean race, with the drivers and team making no mistakes, and then let’s see what happens at the end.”
The Aston Martin Racing team finished 6th and 7th in the GTE Pro category, after a faultless race, but with their fastest laps of the race being two seconds slower than the winning Ford, and second placed Porsche, it’s a tough mountain to climb. The two AMR cars were very close to each other time wise all weekend long – but they were actually finishing behind the old car, running with AMR #98 and TF Sport #90 in the GTE Am, with their fastest laps being half a second slower than the old car.
The Le Mans test day is in two weeks’ time, and following that one, the ACO and FIA have the option to change the BOP slightly, if they read from the data, that somebody has a huge disadvantage. Two seconds at Spa would in theory be four seconds around Le Mans. In fact they can change the BOP all the way up to the race, and if it turns out, in the middle of the race, that somebody had been sandbagging, and not showing their real performance, give them a penalty for it.
We asked Darren how it feels to be back with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen again after two years. They raced together during the first rounds of the FIA WEC in 2016, including the Le Mans, before the crews were split up, and Turner was placed in the #97 for the rest of the year.
“It’s fun, they are good guys, they are fun guys, they are fast. So from that side it’s really good. It doesn’t matter who you get placed with in the team – it’s a very close six drivers, we work well together. Even if it’s the other car, it’s an open book. We sort of have one goal which is to get a good performance for Aston Martin. So it’s a close team and we work well.”
Let’s hope that everybody is going flat out, so we can have a straight, exciting fight between 17 (!) GTE Pro cars from Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, Ford, Corvette and newcomers BMW.
The Le Mans test day will run on 3 June, with the first day of testing in race week to be done on Wednesday 13 June.