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Celebrating 50 flying laps of the sun with pole at Goodwood

How would you spend a big birthday? With family? With friends? Doing something you love? How about all three at once? For multiple British sportscar champion Darren Turner that proved to be the perfect way to celebrate his 50th lap around the Sun… surrounded by all his favourite people and competing in one of his favourite events of the year – the 81st Goodwood Members’ Meeting.

After more than three decades behind the wheel, Turner’s racing scrapbook is full of pages that tell their own glorious stories, and yet still now he is managing to write new history with each fresh chapter. And so it was that Darren recorded his first pole position at Goodwood, on his 50th birthday, and with barely any practice to get his eye in!


Turner was entered in two races over the weekend meeting comprising a treasure trove of historic racing marvels spanning the history of the sport from the big-banging pioneers of the 1920s through to the mighty saloons of the 1980s. The works Aston Martin driver was invited to share Craig Davies’s 1965 Musting in the Ken Miles Cup and Mike Whittaker’s Ford Capri III 3.0S in the Gordon Spice Cup for touring cars.


Turner had been given the chance to learn the Mustang in a test a couple of weeks back, but a mysterious vibration cut his opportunity short. Then with just a further soggy shakedown on the Turweston runway under his belt, he ventured out to qualify among 27 similar machines with just 12 minutes of the session remaining.

“Craig had started qualifying,” said Turner, “but another car had dropped oil on the track, and with cars spinning left, right and centre, they red-flagged the session to clean it up. Craig went back out on the green flag, but the track still wasn’t in the best condition. It was a little better by the time I got in the car, and I managed to get a single clear lap in which was enough to put it on pole position.”


It was close though, with Turner outpacing former British Touring Car champion Andrew Jordan and 2012 World Touring Car champion Rob Huff by less than 0.2s.


Having not had a chance to qualify the Capri in the Gordon Spice Cup due to an issue with the car, he and Whittaker started from the back in the Saturday afternoon race.


“Mike started from 27th and he put in a stormer of a stint!” said Turner. “By the time we reached the driver-change pitstops, he’d got the car up to ninth.”

Both the races Turner contested featured a mixture of professional racing aces and amateur car owners and enthusiasts, and it was up to the crews themselves when each driver took his stint at the wheel. This meant the fields were mixed up as the star players charged through and the variable power outputs, performance and agilities of the different machinery came into play.


“I jumped in after what was probably not the fastest ever stop Goodwood has seen,” said Turner. “I lost a couple of seconds on the way out, but ultimately, we ended up 11th by the chequered flag. I had a few battles along the way and overtook a few people which was fun, but we also got overtaken by some of the faster cars that were coming through when the pro drivers got in them.


“It was probably the right place for where we were meant to be, I was playing catch-up after missing track time in qualifying but that said the Capri was absolutely perfect to drive.”


After a night celebrating over dinner with friends, Turner returned to Goodwood on Sunday for the Ken Miles Cup, and the chance to watch his friend and co-driver of the Irish Grand Prix-winning Aston Martin LM4, Jonathan Lupton, record his first finish in a race at Goodwood.

Davies started the race from pole, but was surrounded by decorated pros such as Andy Priaulx, Tom Kristensen and Al Buncombe throughout his stint.


“Craig did very well, and not only did he bring it back to the pits in fourth, he was still running on the back of the leading pack when he did,” explained Turner, who returned to the track in a net second place not far behind Jordan once the last of the late-stoppers had changed drivers.


“I could just about match Andrew if I put the car right on the knife-edge,” said Turner. “When you drive those things at Goodwood, it’s all a bit wild to say the least. Even if I had managed to close the gap, getting past would have been a mission.”


But then opportunity knocked when the Safety Car was released on to the track following Ash Sutton’s shunt at the chicane.

“Sadly, there was a backmarker between myself and Andrew,” said Turner. “And, by the time I was legally allowed to pass that car, Andrew was already two seconds down the road and gone! Instead, my attention was on Gordon Shedden who was making my life very difficult, running behind me.”


The threat from the multiple British Touring Car champion didn’t last long however, as the Scot pulled off the track with a technical issue. Turner then was sitting pretty in second and looking good for a podium when disaster struck.


“The car started to cut out with three laps to go,” said Turner. “It got worse still on the next lap, and by the time we took the flag, I’d dropped to fourth and we were lucky it was the final lap because I’m not sure we would have made another one.”

Fuel feed issues aside, one of the key aspects of any Goodwood outing is that it is a rare motorsport event where the taking part is as important as the result… and Turner soaked up every last lap of it.


“I had an amazing time,” said Turner. “I enjoyed being able to celebrate my birthday at Goodwood. To be with my family, be among good friends and drive incredible cars on this fantastic, special track. The weekend was pretty much perfect!”


And you can’t ask for more than that.


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