Darren Turner ended his 2020 racing season in the same style as he began it; celebrating podium success in America!
The Aston Martin Racing works driver finished second in the GTD class of the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday, alongside Heart of Racing team-mates Ian James and Roman DeAngelis.
Like so many of this year’s famous endurance events, the Sebring 12 Hours was moved from its traditional spring-break date in March to a cold November weekend because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the date change also meant that Turner was able to make his ninth visit to the legendary track near Florida and take his eighth start in an event he recorded a class win at back in 2005 and has now finished on the podium a further five times in.
Having qualified P11 in the highly-competitive GTD class for GT3 specification machinery, the Aston Martin Vantage crew made rapid progress in the early stages of the event with James taking the start.
“We had good race pace right from the beginning,” said Turner. “It’s rare that you get to race a car that is perfectly balanced, but I have to say this Vantage got better and better all weekend, and as the track rubbered the car came in to its own.”
By the time the team regular handed over the car to Turner for his first stint it was sitting in eighth place. The Briton then set about putting on a charge and fought his way up into the top three – which became the GTD class lead when two competitors in front of him spun on oil.
“I really enjoyed this race,” said Turner, “I was able to really push in each stint, and we even led for half an hour or so in my first stint after I had made a couple moves to get us up into the leading pack. “Once up there, we stayed in that lead pack for the first half of the race.”
Unfortunately, not long after that an issue caused a long refuelling stop when DeAngelis was in the pits and dropped the car back down to P8. Once again Darren and his team-mates fought their way back through the field into the top group.
‘Roman was running in the top four when there was another full course yellow with 20 minutes to go,” explained Turner. “At the restart there was all sort of chaos and he picked up some places and he was even challenging for the lead, it was mega. In the end we finished second.”
It crowned a successful, if strange season for Turner that saw him record podium finishes in the FIA World Endurance Championship for the works team at COTA (US), the Nürburgring 24 Hours with Garage 59 and now in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship with Heart of the Racing.
“It was a really good way to finish the season, and for me personally it was fantastic to have another good result at Sebring,” said Turner. “I am just really happy for everyone.
“It’s been a strange season. We started the year on the podium out in COTA and then Covid-19 came along and completely interrupted everyone’s plans.
“But it did give me this wonderful opportunity to finish the season with three races in IMSA, thanks to Heart of Racing. I’ve really enjoyed racing with Roman and Ian, and the team has been fantastic.”
While Turner was racing in the States, the works team was busy taking a world championship titles in Bahrain. “I’d like to say congratulations to my team-mates Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen and the whole Aston Martin Racing crew. We’ve had an amazing season in WEC and this result is absolutely what they deserve.”
Darren has another busy year of endurance racing and development work planned for 2021, and will announce his programmes in due course.