British sportscar star Darren Turner remains locked in an intense battle for the overall British GT GT4 class championship title after he and Newbridge Motorsport team-mate Matt Topham finished seventh in the fourth round of the series at Donington Park on Sunday.
Victory contenders throughout the weekend with their Aston Martin Vantage GT4, the duo’s hopes of taking a third overall class win from four races were ultimately scuppered by two lengthy pitstops that dropped them out of the leading battle. Their pace was strong however and a clean run home ensured that they maintained their unbeaten run of victories in the GT4 Pro-Am class as reigning champions in 2022.
“It was a bittersweet feeling looking back on it,” said Turner. “Of course, it’s great to have a fourth consecutive Pro-Am win, but as a team we know there was more on offer and we didn’t execute well enough to make the most of the opportunity. We really should have been fighting with [eventual winners] Academy Motorsport for the overall win instead of finishing where we did.
“That being said, we had excellent pace this weekend and despite having some curveballs thrown at us, we were among the front-runners, which is testament to Matt’s progress. You always learn more from the weekends when things don’t go to plan and, as a team, we will learn from this.”
Turner and his team qualified on the GT4 front row after Darren once again set the class pace in his session. His time, combined with that of Topham’s was enough to put them second fastest. But such has been Turner and Topham’s pace in 2022 that the championship has decided to equalise their weight to the Silver class by adding an arbitrary 25kg to the Vantage.
“It was a reasonably significant change, and it means that one of the allowances for being a Pro-Am runner has been removed for us. It is a compliment to Matt, who is making great progress in his second year at this level. Looking at the R-Racing Vantage, we knew the car had good pace at the weight, but it did mean we went into the race uncertain how it would affect the car’s balance.”
Topham started the race and made good progress as he mixed it up with the leaders on the fringes of the top six. As a Pro-Am crew, Newbridge need to spend 14 seconds stationary in the pits less than their GT4 Silver Cup rivals, and Topham was staying inside that margin when the organisers put out the Safety Car to recover debris on the track.
“It seemed like everybody in the field came into the pits at the same time,” said Turner. “It was carnage. You could see mechanics tripping over wheels to find space, and all the cars were nose-to-tail and we had to jack the car up and put it on skates to reposition it in the pitlane.
“It’s a difficult one, and I’m not sure if there is much the championship can do to change the situation with both classes coming in the pits at the same time, but when you see the chaos out of your window as you trundle down the pits, you can see that the probability of something going wrong has massively increased.”
Back on track Turner found himself chasing down the Century Mustang, and was quickly embroiled in a huge fight for the lead with Matt Cowley.
“He was driving well, and the Mustang was a little faster on the straight while we were stronger in the corners,” said Turner. “Unfortunately, that makes it easier to defend the lead. I realised I’d have to wait for GT3 traffic for a really good opportunity.”
That came at Old Hairpin, when Turner made a daring dive to the outside and held on through the exit and up the hill to McLeans. Once ahead he quickly established an advantage. But then things went sour for the Newbridge team at the next stop, which was lengthy and cost the team time.
“It was exceptionally long,” said Turner, “and we dropped significant time. Matt jumped in and put in another strong stint, but then when he pitted for me to get in for the final stint there was some more confusion and we lost even more time.
“It’s a shame because the car had great performance, Matt didn’t put a wheel wrong, and I had some great battles to get us into the lead. We had a really strong race on the track. And given that our main title rivals had a bad weekend, it was a great opportunity to take advantage in the championship and we didn’t take it.
“It happens sometimes. Things can go badly on-track and well off-track and vice versa. Sometimes everything goes to plan and sometimes not at all. The key is to try and minimise the days when things go wrong, and we will work hard on that before the next race.”
Topham and Turner now have six Pro-Am victories to their name amid 11 visits to the podium since they began racing together at the beginning of 2021. The Newbridge duo lie second in the overall GT4 standings, having closed the gap to just four points off the lead having finished ahead of rivals Stellar Motorsport at Donington, while they enjoy a commanding 17.5-point lead at the top of the Pro-Am points table.
Turner’s next competitive outing comes at Snetterton for the fifth round of the British GT Championship on 26 June.