Darren Turner’s European Le Mans Series season took a strong turn this weekend when he finished on the podium at the 4 Hours of Spa. He and his Beechdean AMR team mates, Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn, started the season with two good podium finishes at Silverstone and Monza but fell just short at the last two races so it was good to taste the Champagne again.
“Although it was an eventful and frustrating race it was very rewarding to take a podium finish after a couple of tough events,” said Turner.
It was Gunn’s turn to qualify the #99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE and he took sixth place for the start of Sunday’s four-hour race.
“The qualifying pace just wasn’t there on Saturday,” explained Turner. “But to be fair to Ross he didn’t have chance to do a ‘new tyres, low fuel’ run before the session and it’s difficult to go blind into qualifying like that. That said, we were feeling confident for the race as our normal pace had been very good in the practice sessions.”
Gunn took the start and for the first time this season all of the GTE start drivers were silver-graded so it was a straight battle between the cars. He made up a place on lap one and throughout his stint worked his way through to a position where he was challenging for the lead when the Safety Car took to the track for the first time.
Turner jumped in for the second stint but, despite taking the lead, he was unable to get stuck into the race.
“My first few laps were under Safety Car,” he said. “But when it went back in it was carnage as all of the least experienced LMP3 drivers had jumped in for the second stint. I got about two racing laps in before the Safety Car came out again. After that one I managed around 10 racing laps before the Safety Car came out again. By that time, I was up to the maximum allowed seat time for platinum-ranked drivers so I had to pit to hand over to Andrew (Howard).”
There were no Safety Cars during that next stint but Howard’s run was interrupted by a Full Course Yellow. He defended well and ultimately handed the Aston Martin over to Gunn for the run to the flag in fourth place.
Once all the strategies aligned for the final stint, Gunn was set for an assured third place as he approached the chequered flag.
“Although it was a frustrating race where we just couldn’t get into the groove, it was good to take third place,” said Turner. “That second hour is when all the most inexperienced drivers jump into the LMP3 cars. You don’t know what they’re going to do and they don't know what they’re going to do either so it’s a real ‘hold onto your hats’ moment. We made it through though and took a podium finish so we’re pleased with that.”
Next up for Turner is Round 7 of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Fuji in Japan on 15 October.