The Bank Holiday weekend served up something completely different for British racing driver, Darren Turner, who found himself behind the wheel of a very special Pre-War Grand Prix car.
It was a chance conversation last year that led Turner to the Aston Martin LM4 he raced at the Donington Historic Festival on Sunday. The new owner of the car invited him to test it at Silverstone and then asked him to race it this year. With Turner having raced most Aston Martins during his career, this was too good an opportunity to miss.
The Aston Martin LM4, run by Ecurie Bertelli, is like nothing Darren has raced before, as he explains: “You have to forget what you know to drive this car. The hardest thing to get used to is the fact that the throttle is in the middle and the brake is on the right. Having spent 30-odd years racing cars with the throttle pedal on the right and the brake on the left, this takes a fair bit of getting used too. It’s like that thing where you pat your head and rub your tummy simultaneously. Worryingly, I’m not very good at that!”
In addition to the pedal positions, Turner had to get his head around double declutching. With the clutch only required for pulling away in modern race cars, having to use it twice on every downshift gives the driver a lot to remember.
“The whole experience is so enjoyable,” he continued. “When you get it right and get a really nice downshift, where you don’t crunch the gears and you do the corner right as you haven’t forgotten the throttle is in the middle, when you get it all hooked up, that’s what makes driving these older cars so enjoyable.”
The Aston Martin LM4 hasn’t really been developed much over the past 92 years so she’s a steady old girl and probably the slowest on the straights in the Mad Jack race on Sunday. Turner got away well at the start of the race and made a few places into Turn 1 but as soon as he was onto the straight, everything flew back past him again!
Despite this, he was having a ball, getting into the flow and concentrating on everything he needed to do. Unfortunately it came to a premature end just after the mandatory pit stop.
“The old girl tried her best,” said Turner. “But unfortunately the bracket that holds part of the throttle linkage broke and I came to a gentle stop, where I happily watched the last 20 minutes of the race.”
Darren left Donington with no silverware but a big smile on his face and can’t wait to do it all again. He will have three more outings in the LM4 this year: at the Silverstone and Spa Classics and a race at Snetterton. He will definitely have it mastered by then!