The Coronavirus lockdown may have brought motor racing to a necessary halt over the past four months, but that hasn’t stopped works Aston Martin Racing driver Darren Turner keeping busy behind the steering wheel.
Alongside his development work on the British sportscar manufacturers’ state-of-the-art Valkyrie hypercar, as preparations ramp up ahead of its delivery to customers in 2021, the three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner has begun his role as test driver for the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship’s new hybrid programme. Turner, a former SEAT works driver in the BTCC between 2006 and 2008, completed a successful two-day test at Snetterton in a Speedworks-run Toyota Corolla fitted with the Cosworth Electronics-developed hybrid system that is set to go live in 2022. “I really enjoyed getting back behind the wheel of a touring car,” said Turner. “It’s been 12 years since I raced in the BTCC and there was a lot to re-acclimatise to! “It’s a very different environment to the GT cars I’m used to these days. It has a sequential gearbox for a start and you have to be much more involved with the downshifts. It’s also a front-wheel drive car as well and they don’t use tyre warming blankets so you really have to work the tyres up to temperature.”
Turner’s key role was to give in-depth feedback and assist in development of the BTCC’s first specification hybrid system, which is comprised of a 60V gearbox-mounted hybrid motor that generates around 40bhp additional power for the driver when applied.
“You can really feel when the hybrid is engaged and while we’re at an early stage, it’s clear from these first two days that we’ve got a very good solid base to build from and a clear path of development ahead of us.’
“I think it will add an extra element of excitement to the BTCC. You are still going to have all the drama and excitement of the close racing, but this is another step in a new and exciting direction that more closely reflects the way manufacturers are going with their road car programmes. “At the moment TOCA [the sport’s organising body] is still devising how the strategy and implementation of the system will work over a race weekend, but it is going to bring something to the show rather than take anything away.”
Turner may have been away from the BTCC battleground for a decade, but he’s lost none of his enthusiasm for the UK’s foremost racing series and has wasted no time in embedding himself in TOCA’s brand new venture. “Between all the partners, Speedworks, Delta Motorsport (who provide the battery cells), Cosworth Electronics and Xtrac with their gearbox expertise, it is a very good working group. “Everyone is very aligned in bringing this on-stream in a way that is easy to install and maintain while being durable and robust for all the teams. Speedworks are a very strong team, dedicated to doing an excellent job and it’s been a pleasure to drive with them so far. I’m really looking forward to the next phase of development.’ Meanwhile, Turner will head back into the increased Valkyrie programme as the world’s most advanced and sophisticated road car edges closer to perfection.
“It’s definitely been an interesting week,” said Turner. “I started Monday in a 1000bhp, rear-wheel drive hypercar that is an incredible piece of engineering and then stepped into the cut and thrust of a front-wheel drive BTCC touring car using an all-new hybrid technology for the first time. It’s been really cool in terms of a pure driving experience at two extreme ends of the spectrum.”