On a poignant and historic weekend for Great Britain, sportscar racer Darren Turner returned to action in this year’s Goodwood Revival – his favourite meeting on the UK’s motorsport calendar.
Held just one day prior to the State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in central London, this year’s event took on special significance for many of those participating, including Turner, who was as usual entered in Sunday’s blue riband RAC TT Celebration race, having shone in Saturday’s opening St Mary’s Trophy race.
“Over the years, the Queen’s connection to Goodwood was significant, thanks of course to the Duke of Richmond and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing,” said Turner. “The entire weekend was incredibly well-judged in tribute to Her Majesty, with speeches from the Duke of Richmond and videos of the Queen as well as moments of silence. Even the traditional Saturday-evening ball was transformed in to a black-tie dinner that included a beautiful choir and orchestra arrangement playing music that celebrated the life of the Queen.
“Considering how little time there was to prepare for this ahead of the event, it seemed to me that Goodwood handled it all perfectly and with great sensitivity.”
Sensitivity was a gift required in ample amounts on track too as Turner was called upon to tame the mighty 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray he shared alongside car owner Craig Davies – the owner of Darren’s long-term sponsor Sub Zero – in the TT. The duo enjoyed an excellent run, which, but for misfortune in the last couple of laps, could have resulted in a brilliant top-ten finish.
“Craig is an incredibly accomplished historic racer and a very, very fast driver,” said Turner. “Until now we’ve never had the opportunity to share a car, so it was great to be able to race with him this weekend. He is a lovely guy, and he and his team are rightly very proud of their beautiful Corvette.”
Having qualified 17th for the race, Davies and Turner made a strong start, with Craig working his way up the field before pitting mid-race to hand-over to Turner.
“We had a clean pitstop – which is not easy to do in historic racing,” explained Turner. “Basically, you have to spend 50 seconds in the pitlane, from line-to-line, so quite a lot of people get penalties. We are spoilt in modern cars, because we have pitlane speed limiters, GPS timers that tell you when you crossed the pitlane entry, and when you are going out and all sorts of other electronic assistance… in modern GT racing you can manage this type of thing to half a second quite accurately and it’s easy. But in a historic car you don’t have any of those luxuries. You must manually judge the 20mph pitlane limit, do a driver change, and then try not to be under way in less than 50secs. But we nailed all of that, so it was all good.”
Turner then worked his way into the top ten, passing cars and taking advantage of the attrition typically associated with historic cars running on the limit. There was even a moment of karma to revel in along the way… “Pedro de la Rosa was driving an E-Type Jaguar in the race,” said Turner. “Back when I was a young test driver for the McLaren Formula 1 team, Pedro was the race driver there. I had a lap-long battle with Pedro on Sunday, and it felt very good to finally get past him in his Jag!”
Things were looking good until the last couple of laps, when Turner encountered a technical issue with the car, requiring him to pull off the circuit near the end of the lap.
“I was thoroughly enjoying it all up until the car stopped. It’s always a real pleasure to be in the TT, it’s the big race of the weekend, and it’s a very exciting race to be in with some great drivers and some fantastic cars. It was an honour to share Craig’s car with him and it was a real achievement to be running ninth so close to the end.”
Turner had already notched up one key achievement by that stage of the weekend, having been first home among the BMW 1800 TiSAs participating in the St Marys Trophy race on Saturday.
“I was sharing Wesley Butcher’s BMW which was a great little car,” said Turner. “In these races there is always a sense of ‘class-within-a-class’, because the grid is full of so many different types of car. The little BMW was about 4secs off the front-running cars, so I ended up being involved in a race with other similar cars. It was nice to bring it home top of the BMWs, especially for the owner whose car is his pride and joy.
“Wes and his mates that run the car were just great. They were fantastic company all weekend and they were super-happy that the car ran competitively and was the top BMW at the end of the race. For them that was a lovely achievement.”
Darren was by no means the only Turner competing last weekend, for both his children participated in the crowd-favourite Settrington Cup event for pedal-powered Austin J40s. Nine-year-old Lyla made her third appearance in the event, while little brother Dylan returned for his second time, aboard a special Cayman Islands car.
“The owner of the museum unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but his widow Natalie Ugland, kindly donated the J40 to us,” said Turner. “We restored it and entered it for Dylan. It was fantastic to see both my kids in what is probably the most popular race of the weekend.
“They had a lovely time, and they are in it for the fun of it, but for the first time we saw a little bit of competitive needle from them both, so I think I will have to do a bit more work on the cars to make them a bit faster for next year!”
For the record, Dylan was classified 34th, five positions higher than his sister…
Darren now turns his attention to next month’s British GT finale at Donington Park, known as the Donington Decider, on 15-16 October. Darren and his Newbridge Motorsport team-mate Matt Topham go into the meeting leading the points overall in the GT4 and Pro-Am GT4 classes with their Aston Martin Vantage GT4.