What do you do if you’re a busy British racing driver in the middle of a sweltering summer heat-wave? Well, if you’re Darren Turner, you jump in an Aston Martin soft-top and go for a blast around the Norfolk countryside of course! But in the case of last weekend, this wasn’t just any old cabriolet, but a very special and beautiful pre-war Grand Prix Aston Martin LM4.
The 1930 Irish Grand Prix class-winning machine was entered in the Motor Racing Legends Snetterton 200 event and was participating in the Pre-War Sports Car Race as its owner Jonathan Lupton shared driving duties with Turner for the first time. “In the same week that I was testing the Aston Martin Valkyrie in Spain,” said the Aston Martin high performance development driver, “which features the most cutting-edge technology available on any road car, I then found myself racing around Snetterton in a pre-war car that is fundamentally as basic as you can get by comparison. "I can assure you that they are two completely different driving experiences, and yet both of them are very much pure Aston Martin.” LM4, procured by Lupton earlier this year, was entered under the Aston Martin Team banner and has been restored and prepared by Ecurie Bertelli. The Snetterton outing formed part of a planned limited programme of events this year (which also includes the Silverstone Classic) as Lupton and the project build momentum ahead of a more comprehensive schedule in the future. 92 years old she may be, but LM4 is very much an active racing car with a proud legacy that continues to grow. “There is a plan to bring new upgrades,” said Turner, “but at the moment, it is about purely enjoying driving such a wonderful car and the weekend with Jonathan. He is on a journey with LM4, but also for himself, in terms of getting up to speed as a racing driver. For me it’s just a fantastic experience to go along to these events.
“It’s enjoyable walking around the paddock with all the old cars, the sights, the smells, the conversations. For instance, I slept in my van when I got there on Saturday night and it took me right back to my club racing days. Back to the basics of enjoying driving for driving’s sake!” At heart though Turner is a racer, and once on the asphalt his brain instantly switches on to an innate sense of honed efficiencies, spacial awareness and minimal inputs to maintain speed, all of which are far easier said than achieved in LM4. “We use pretty much the same racing lines as we do in the modern Astons, it’s just that it is harder to keep to them,” he explained. “It’s a bit more like sailing than driving because these old cars float around on track a little bit. And everything feels like it takes forever… it takes forever to accelerate, it takes forever to change gear, and then once it’s up to speed it’s not that great at slowing down either! It’s just so different to drive but the fundamentals are pretty similar. “But all that is what makes racing vintage cars such an absorbing experience. You must prepare yourself more before each corner, because it takes so long to slow down and come down through the gears, you can’t send it straight into a corner, you really have to think about and almost plan the approach. You have got to spread things out to make sure you get everything done before you go into the apex.” Hot work? Not a bit of it… Summer is for playing and Turner had a ball! “The hottest bit was being sat in the collection area,” he said. “Once you were out on track and you had the breeze, it was great. It didn’t feel hot at all, just very happy!”
Turner is set to experience competitive heat of a different nature next weekend, as he seeks to extend the British GT GT4 Championship lead he shares with Newbridge Motorsport team-mate Matt Topham in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4, at Spa-Francorchamps. The reigning British GT4 Pro-Am champions head into the two-hour event at the classic Belgian venue with an eight-point advantage over their nearest rivals with just three rounds left to run in 2022.