Darren Turner’s first race at Brands Hatch for 10 years got brutal yesterday when soaring temperatures turned the two-hour British GT race into a survival of the fittest.
After a couple of difficult races, the Beechdean AMR team has been working hard to maximise the performance of the #99 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 and the results of Saturday’s qualifying session showed that their efforts had paid off. Both Turner and his team mate, Andrew Howard, put in competitive lap times and were awarded with second place on the grid.
Howard started the race and held onto second place for the first 30 minutes before the Safety Car made its first appearance. At the restart he dropped to third but held steady and brought the Aston Martin in at the halfway mark in that position.
Turner joined the race in third place, slap bang in the middle of a ferocious GT3 battle!
“I knew it was going to be a hard, aggressive stint,” he said. “Once the Safety Car bunches everyone up like that you know it’s going to be close. With the addition of such high temperatures and the nature of Brands Hatch, which is a non-stop circuit, it was always going to be tough.
“After the peak of the new tyre I realised we were struggling with the rear, especially under braking,” he continued. “I had to drive defensively but also protect the rear tyres. The balance of the car was nervous on entry to the corners so I was giving away time in the braking zones. I knew that if I got good exits though it would be difficult for anyone to get past me.”
It needed to be difficult as on Turner’s tail was a Lamborghini, then an Aston Martin driven by Nicki Thiim and then a hard-charging Mercedes, all wanting Turner’s spot on the podium.
With 20 minutes to go Turner managed to swerve just in time to avoid some on-track debris, which then ended the attack from the Lamborghini driver, who didn’t manage to avoid it. That wasn’t the end of the distractions though as an oil pressure alarm then went off.
“I lost a bit of momentum trying to work out if I needed to turn the car off or not,” said Turner. “It doesn’t take much when the racing is that close so when I also got baulked on the entry to Clearways, Nicki saw his chance and went for it.
“I was disappointed to lose third, of course, and the moment Nicki was through I had to look out for (Yelmer) Buurman in the Mercedes who was looking for a way through. We had a bit of contact at Druids but it was ok and I was pretty relieved to see the chequered flag soon after that!”
The British GT Championship concludes at Donington Park on 23 September.