Darren Turner narrowly missed out on his fifth podium finish of a busy intercontinental season after misfortune struck down The Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in the final third of the 2020 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, in Georgia, on Saturday.
The Briton, on his second outing with the new-for-2020 team alongside regulars Ian James and Roman de Angelis, was in contention for third place in the GTD class during Round Nine of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship when the car was hit by a rival and forced to retire with accident damage.
Works Aston Martin Racing driver Turner, who recorded the British marque’s first class victory in the 10-hour classic enduro in 2006, loves competing on the fast, sweeping Road Atlanta circuit. And he felt sure that the strong progress THoR has made this season would reap the rewards in the race.
“It’s a real shame for the whole team,” said Turner. “The car has moved forward in terms of competitiveness since I drove it here last month, and you could tell that from its behaviour on track that the testing the team did recently at Sebring had paid off.
“As darkness fell, in Roman’s second stint, he and the car were getting faster and faster and he was closing in on third when he went for the outside on the entry to the chicane (Turn 10A) and got alongside an Acura, who then moved over on him to try and pass another car on the run up the hill. The damage to our car would have taken too long to repair, so it was decided that caution was the better part of valour.”
Turner adores Road Atlanta, which he describes as a “real drivers’ track” and was all set to take the car to the flag when the accident occurred.
“We’d had an issue in qualifying which prevented Ian from attacking, and to give us all the best opportunity in the race, we opted to start on new tyres from the back of the pack. Ian started and made great progress to work through the field so that when I took over for my first stint we were up to P8.”
Turner gained two more places in a clean and pacey stint before handing the Vantage over to DeAngelis on the brink of the top five. Strong stints from the youngster and James kept the car in the hunt, despite several Safety Car periods so that when Turner climbed back in, the Vantage was still in a cluster of cars hunting down a podium.
The Aston’s core strength appeared to be in the third sector of the lap, but it couldn’t quite match its rivals in the middle sector. This meant that while Turner could close up to cars at the end of the lap, he wasn’t able to capitalise through the twisty parts of the circuit that came immediately before the long straights. Nevertheless, Turner completed his second stint with the car in a position for DeAngelis to vault himself into the fight as darkness fell.
DeAngelis did just that and was making great progress before he was hit, with Turner suited, booted and ready to go waiting in pitlane.
“The team is improving in every outing, as evidenced by its podium finish last time out at Charlotte Speedway,” said Turner. “This track wasn’t necessarily so suited to the Vantage as others are, and yet I felt sure that we could have fought for a podium here too. This bodes well for the final two races at Laguna Seca and the 12 Hours of Sebring.”
Darren Turner will return to The Heart of Racing for the final round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship at Sebring, on 14 November.