Works Aston Martin Racing driver Darren Turner earned the right to stand on one of motorsport’s most famous podiums, at Monza in Italy, after finishing third in the opening race of the final International GT Open double-header of the season.
For Turner and his co-driver, AMR Academy driver Ollie Wilkinson driving Optimum Motorsport’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3, it was the second time this season that they had finished third. The duo had come close in both the previous two rounds at Silverstone and Barcelona, having claimed a podium on their first race weekend together at Hockenheim in May. Turner qualified seventh for the opening race of the weekend on Saturday and started the 70-minute enduro strongly, running a long first stint to put the duo in contention. “It was all very close in qualifying”, said Turner. “At one stage we were second for quite some time, and it was exciting to have the prospect of being on the front row. But then some of the other cars went for a second set of tyres and found a little bit extra. “On the opening lap I had a good scrap with Matt Griffin, but then I got stuck behind a McLaren. Thankfully he pitted at the beginning of the pit window and I was able to get into clear air and lay some decent laps down.” This allowed Turner to put the car in a position to over-cut some of his rivals when he handed the car over to Wilkinson at the end of the pit window.
“This gave Ollie track position of P3,” said Turner. “He made a small mistake at the beginning of his stint which dropped him into the clutches of the chasing pack. But he did a magnificent job to then defend for 25 minutes of intense pressure and was able to maintain third position. It was a really enjoyable race and it was a great to get a podium on the last GT Open race of the year.” The second race produced another points finish, although this time a podium eluded Turner and Wilkinson. “Ollie qualified eighth, but unfortunately he had an off at the high-speed Ascari Chicane. The guys in the team did a great job in the three and a half hours between qualifying and the race to repair the car." Wilkinson started the race and brought the Vantage GT3 back to the pits in eighth, but neither he nor Turner was able to make meaningful progress with a car that was still carrying lingering downshift issues from the accident. Nevertheless both drivers felt that they had got the most from the race and the weekend, eventually adding a seventh place to their third on Saturday. “I’ve really enjoyed working with Optimum this year and watching Ollie progress through the season has been really rewarding. It’s been a strong way to finish my last European race of 2019!”