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A brand new experience in a very old car for Turner in Portugal

When you’ve been racing as long as British sportscar champion driver Darren Turner has, it’s always nice when you build in a fresh new driving experience into the racing season.


These days it’s not often that Darren visits a circuit for the very first time, but that’s exactly what happened when he raced the beautiful pre-war Aston Martin LM4 on the temporary Circuito International de Vila Real street circuit, in Portugal, last Sunday.


“It’s an amazing place to go and drive on,” said Darren. “We don’t often get to race on street circuits in endurance racing or even historic events, so this was a real treat. I love a challenge, and combining the intricacies of driving a pre-war racing car and learning a new street challenge certainly got my attention!”


Turner was invited back by car owner Jonathan Lupton, with whom he won his class in the Le Mans Classic in 2023, to compete in the Trophee Legende double-header organised by historic racing promotor Peter Auto.


LM4, run by Ecurie Bertelli, is a special Aston Martin. It is 94 years old and won the 1930 Irish Grand Prix in a previous life, before Lupton purchased it in 2021 and began restoring it for competition. Since then, Turner has shared driving duties in the little 1.5-litre sportscar.


Lupton, who is growing faster and more accomplished with every outing, took to the tricky venue (which is a year younger than LM4) with aplomb.


“It was important that we gave Jonathan as much track time as possible,” explained Turner. “Street tracks are almost another discipline for someone who doesn’t race very often, in terms of sight lines and race-craft, so he did very well to come to terms with it all so quickly. But that did of course mean by the time we raced, I’d only had one flying lap to learn the circuit!”


Lupton started eighth on the grid for the opening 25-minute race, and by halfway through the first lap he was already up to fourth position, ahead of some considerably more powerful cars that were more suited to the long flowing track.


“One guy in front of him had spun, and the driver following immediately behind had crashed straight into him,” said Turner. “The one behind those two had then spun in sympathy, and Jonathan just got his head down and weaved through all the chaos.”


For a number of laps Lupton circulated comfortably in fourth until eventually he was forced to give best to a couple of Bugattis. Sixth place at the finish was a worthy effort.


That result defined Turner’s starting position for the second 30-minute race, and he immediately jumped up to fifth place by the first section of sweeping corners, on lap one.


“I had a bit of contact with Vincent Tourneur in his Delahaye,” explained Turner. “You can’t imagine how horrible it feels when you see a rubber mark that you’ve made on the back of one of these old cars… they are so precious. My tyre just clipped the back of his car through the sweepers early in the lap, I just slightly misjudged which direction he was going to go in…”


After that, Turner quickly caught up to the battle for second place, which comprised Bo Williams in a Bugatti and Heinz Stamm’s Aston Martin 2-litre Sportscar.


“The thing about the little LM4,” said Turner, “is that while it is not the fastest in a straight line, it’s terrific through the corners. On the long straight I got a good tow from the two cars in front and luckily for me they were a bit tentative through the two left-handers that followed, and I was able to nip past them and move up to second place.”

Turner set about chasing down the leader Thierry Stapts, in a Bugatti Type 35, but sadly the pursuit was to no avail, as a minor but significant gearbox issue halted LM4’s progress in its tracks with three laps to go.


“It was only a little locating pin that had worked itself loose, and it didn’t do too much damage,” he said. “But it put us out on the spot, which was a shame because we had a podium in the bag up until that point.”


Through the weekend, Turner, a works Aston Martin Racing driver, had kept one eye on events in Belgium, where his team-mates Mattia Drudi, Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim were busy claiming the brand’s first victory in the 24 Hours of Spa for 76 years.


“I am so very happy for Mattia, Marco and Nicki and everyone at Aston Martin and Comtoyou Racing” said Turner. “The 24 Hours of Spa is one of the hardest events to win in all of motorsport, because there is so much equal machinery to race against and so many good drivers in the field. It’s a massive accomplishment for the brand and it’s a very proud day for everyone involved.”


Turner is next in action at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, on 10-12 July, where he will be displaying a variety of Aston Martin machinery is his role as High Performance Development Driver for the brand.


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