British sportscar star Darren Turner remains on top of the British GT Championship GT4 points battle with two rounds left in 2022, after he and Newbridge Motorsport team-mate Matt Topham dug deep to produce a damage-limiting sixth place finish in class in the two-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, on Sunday.
That was enough to maintain the reigning GT4 Pro-Am champions’ podium run in the Pro-Am class, with Turner and Topham finishing second. The result means that the duo now have a single point lead in the overall standings going into the penultimate round of the season at Brands Hatch, in Kent.
A troublesome brake issue, which affected the handling of the Vantage GT4 and pushed the brake balance rearwards in longer stints meant much of Friday’s test was lost to the problem. The hunt persisted into Saturday morning’s first practice session. Then to compound things, unfortunately Matt had an off at Turn 13 on his out lap, which damaged the Vantage for FP2. Despite a valiant effort from the team to repair the car in time for qualifying, it meant that Turner had no real running until then.
“All our running up until qualifying was compromised,” said Turner. “So, because we didn’t really get to work on a set-up at all, we went into qualifying a bit behind the curve. Qualifying was as good as it could be considering.
“And then effectively we tried a whole different set-up for warm-up, where we got two laps, and that’s what we raced with. From that point it was always going to be a damage limitation race weekend for us.”
Starting eighth, and on the GT4 Pro-Am pole, Topham made steady progress initially until a Safety Car period to recover a McLaren GT3 in the barriers at Eau Rouge and bunched the pack back together, reducing the advantage Newbridge hoped to carry into the pitstops, given that it can stop for 14s less that its GT4 Silver Cup rivals.
“Although it helped us in one way [by bunching up the pack in front],” explained Turner, “it also brought everyone else back into play at the pitstop window and some of that was to our detriment.”
Once out on track, Turner found that he was unable to make inroads on the Team Brit McLaren running ahead of him.
“We just didn’t have an answer,” said Turner. “It seemed to have GT3 speed down the straights, so I was never able to get close to it in a braking zone. But overall, it was slowing me down.
“Then I started getting track warnings that didn’t really make sense. At this point I wasn’t really making any progress on the guys ahead and I was dropping the Mustang behind, so I decided to play safe. But I was unaware that our championship rivals in the Stellar Audi were hauling everyone in after they had taken a penalty.”
Once alerted to the danger, Turner began to push the limits again in an effort to maximise his points haul for the day.
“Our races converged together on the last lap and the Audi got past on the Kemmel Straight. Then I had a half lap battle with the fifth-placed Toyota to the flag. I had got past him, but then he came around the outside of me at Blanchimont quite some way off the track…”
The two cars ended up separated by 0.077s apart at the chequered flag, with Turner eventually finishing sixth in class.
“Last year at Spa we were very competitive. This time we just were on the backfoot. Ideally, we would have been fourth, and that’s the frustration, that we dropped a few more points than we needed to. It could even have been third had things gone a bit differently and if we had got the brakes working, who knows, we could have been fighting for the win. One of those weekends where it just didn’t go our way, but it could have been worse. The positive thing is that even after a tough weekend we still lead the championship.”
Topham and Turner have nine Pro-Am victories to their name since they began racing together at the beginning of last year and the Newbridge remain firmly in control at the top of the Pro-Am points table.
Turner’s next competitive outing comes at Brand Hatch for the eighth round of the British GT Championship on 10 September.