British racing driver Darren Turner continued his fascinating ‘time-travelling’ voyage of discovery with the beautiful pre-war Grand Prix Aston Martin LM4 at last weekend’s Silverstone Classic meeting, where he also collected another class podium to add to his growing collection of silverware from his various racing exploits in 2022.
Prepared and run by Ecurie Bertelli, the Aston Martin LM4 (a class-winner in the 1930 Irish Grand Prix) represents an ongoing project for its owner Jonathan Lupton who shares the driving duties with Turner, an Aston Martin development driver and British GT Championship contender. The Silverstone Classic is one of the most prestigious events in the international historic racing calendar, so naturally the MRL Pre-War Sports Cars ‘BRDC 500’ was the key event in the season for LM4.
“It was really good to be back on the grand prix circuit at Silverstone,” said Turner. “And the team at Ecurie Bertelli had a nice surprise for me to try out! They’d changed the pedal arrangement to a more conventional system. That transformed the driving experience for me.”
Previously LM4’s pedals ran clutch/throttle/brake from left-to-right, but for Silverstone they ran it with clutch/brake/throttle. “The key thing for me,” explained Turner, “is that it meant I didn’t have to think about it anymore, and it became more intuitive. Until then I’d had to plan each braking and turning event in advance and make sure I thought about each gear change. Just driving the car was an all-absorbing experience. At Silverstone I was able to focus on driving, racing lines and going as fast as was possible.”
With pre-war racing machinery going fast is all relative… During this period of the sport’s history all sorts of concepts to do with engine size and power-to-weight ratios were being pioneered and developed. It means that in the modern era, all this machinery runs together in multiple classes and huge disparities in lap times and speed are commonplace.
“To put it into context,” said Turner, “our best laps are some 20s slower than the fastest cars in the biggest class. There is a big range. But that is one of the things that makes driving these machines so interesting.
“Also the LM4 was never equipped with a speedometer, which makes it very difficult to judge how fast you are going in the pitlane which has a 60kph limit. So, at Silverstone, I strapped my iPhone to the dash and used a GPS-based speed app to get a better idea of the speeds. The top speed down the Hangar Straight was 87mph! When you consider that I am often testing cars capable of easily producing 100mph more than that, it’s a completely different mindset.”
The race weekend came in between a period of intensive development testing for Turner with the Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar in Spain, so he was unable to participate in Thursday’s testing session and jumped straight into qualifying where he placed 22nd overall and third in the PW1 class. Turner then converted this into a top-20 race finish and a class podium, finishing second in PW1.
“In the race I stayed out of trouble as best I could,” said Turner. “I had a few fun dices, but they tend to be fairly short-lived! They all happen in the corners and then as soon we get on to the straights everyone goes away and leaves you. I’d then catch them back up into the next corner but they would slowly eke away as we got more laps under our belt. The car didn’t miss a beat though, it completed a 40-minute race and we ended up 20th, which was a real achievement.
“It was another thoroughly enjoyable weekend discovering more about LM4, and the Silverstone Classic is just a brilliant experience if you love racing; watching the cars, catching up with old friends and enjoying the British summertime.”
Turner now returns to Valkyrie testing before heading back into the fight for the 2022 British GT GT4 Championship title at Brands Hatch on 10-11 September.