Darren Turner scored his best result yet in the ADAC Zurich 24-Hour race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife last weekend. He and his Aston Martin Racing team mates Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen and Maxime Martin took the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 to an incredible fourth place finish on the car’s factory swansong at the gruelling Nürburgring event.
As the crew of the #007 Aston Martin finished in fifth place in the six-hour qualification race last month, they had a guaranteed place in Friday evening’s Top 30 shootout.
“Although grid position isn’t everything in a 24-hour race, it’s vital to be in the Top 30 shootout as you get the all-important blue light in your car,” said Turner. “The light warns drivers ahead that one of the quickest cars is coming and when there are 160 cars starting the race that blue light makes getting through the traffic a lot easier!”
Nicki Thiim was in the hot seat for the shootout where all 30 cars line up on the start/finish straight and head out in 10 second intervals. The order is set via a lucky dip: Thiim was the eighth car to go and a great lap saw him take fifth place on the starting grid.
The teams were greeted with clear blue skies on race day but the weather forecast reported that something ominous was coming their way.
Maxime Martin started the race and the plan was to do single-stint rotations through the four drivers. Each lap of the Nordschleife is so intense that it makes sense for the driver to do just over an hour on each run so they can maintain the level of concentration required of them. Turner was the third man out.
“I really enjoyed my first stint,” he said. “This circuit is on another level in terms of the amount of precision and concentration required to put a lap together. When you then add in the traffic it’s very intense but I loved every second of it.”
There was an unfortunate moment during Turner’s first run when a group of cars lost time due to another driver not knowing the rules. The yellow flags were waving and an amateur driver in a BMW mistakenly thought it was a ‘Code 60’ whereby everyone must slow right down to 60kph. It wasn’t a Code 60 but nobody could pass him under yellows! A minute can seem like a lifetime in a race and that’s how much time everyone behind the BMW lost.
Turner’s next stint was during the night and he continued the strong run for the #007 Aston Martin, which moved between third and 10thplace throughout the race, depending on everyone’s fuel strategy.
What turned out to be Turner’s final stint was on Sunday morning and while he was out on track the rain that had been predicted got heavy enough to require a pit stop to take on a set of monsoon tyres!
With the weather getting increasingly bad the race was red-flagged with three and half hours remaining on the clock. The rain was replaced by a blanket of heavy fog, which made the Nordschleife too dangerous.
With just over an hour to go the race went green and Martin set out for the final battle. The third, fourth and fifth-placed cars were bunched together and although he made it up to third he was then passed by a Mercedes in the final laps, taking fourth place at the chequered flag.
“I’m so proud of the team,” said Turner. “To take fourth place in this crazy race, in the last factory outing for the V12 Vantage, is a fantastic achievement. The car felt brilliant in the race, with great balance and great performance. We entered one car, when nearly every other manufacturer entered half a dozen due to the attrition rate, and we finished ahead of all the Audis and BMWs on their home ground. To make it to the flag is a huge achievement but to be competitive and fighting for podium right up to the end is testament to the car and the outstanding job the team did.”