Aston Martin Racing works driver Darren Turner has closed to within 6.5 points of the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am class lead, following another stellar podium in last weekend’s Lone Star 6 Hour race at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas.
The British star, who shares the #98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE with team-mates Ross Gunn and Paul Dalla Lana, finished second in the fifth round of the 2019-2020 WEC season after a race-long battle with the race-winning TF Sport Vantage GTE. The result means that Turner has now finished on the podium on four out of five occasions in the 2019/2020 season. But at the beginning of the weekend he wasn’t even sure if his team-mate Dalla Lana would be able to race, after the Canadian injured his ankle in a skiing accident over Christmas. “We came into this weekend not knowing whether Paul would even be able to get in the car and went away with a second place, another podium and having closed up in the points, so that’s a great result,” said Turner.
Gunn and Dalla Lana qualified the #98 machine second in class after all three drivers showed strong pace in practice. The Canadian then started the race and delivered an astonishing double-stint, remaining in the car for two hours and handing it over to Gunn in a strong third position. “Paul’s double stint at the beginning of the race was epic,” said Turner. “And his pace was great all weekend. That kept us right in the hunt. Ross then had a good first stint and stayed very close with Jonny [Adam] in the TF car.” By the time Turner got into the Aston Martin, fading brakes had become a factor and he admitted that it compromised his stint.
“I have to say I struggled mainly with the braking element and lost a bit too much time. I was having to brake with a long pedal, and with my little legs a long pedal becomes a big problem! “I kept Jonny behind for a reasonable amount of time but wasn’t able to do it for the whole stint which might have helped us at the end.” Turner handed the #98 back to Gunn, who along with TF Sport’s Charlie Eastwood, was able to overhaul the leading Porsche. They then engaged in a mighty scrap for the lead of the GTE Am class.
The TF Sport, carrying less success ballast from the previous round, was the slightly faster car on the day, and Aston Martin Racing decided to roll the dice with one last strategy call in the final stops. “We had to try something to get Ross ahead of Charlie in the last pitstop, so we only changed the left hand tyres,” explained Turner. “It meant that Ross was always going to be compromised on outright performance but he had track position. He did an amazing job to keep Charlie behind him for as long as he did, half a stint. But in the end, we had to settle for second again!’
That second place gives Turner and his co-drivers 78.5 points in the championship, and with three races left to go and the 1000-miles of Sebring worth 1.5x the points, the 24 Hours of Le Mans counting for double, the title fight is closer than ever. “Now we have everything to play for, so we have a clear goal to aim at when we get to Sebring next month.”