Darren Turner enjoyed the most successful British GT event of his career at Oulton Park last weekend, taking a pole position, an outright class win and a further podium finish as he and Newbridge Motorsport co-driver Matt Topham extended their Pro-Am Championship lead to 14.5 points.
The duo were the dominant package with their Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for much of the double-header weekend at the Cheshire venue, setting the class pace in practice and taking pole position for both of the hour-long races. For Topham that represented a career first.
An overall win and a third-place Pro-Am finish in very wet conditions means the pair have only missed out on the podium once in their six starts together, and have now scored three Pro-Am victories (including ones at Silverstone and Spa).
“We had the pace in the car all weekend,” said Turner. “And it’s fantastic when that happens. I think we pretty much maximised our potential, and Matt did a great job. His pace was outstanding, so this is definitely the best weekend we’ve had yet with the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4.”
With the event being a double-header both drivers qualified independently, with each responsible for earning a race grid slot, rather than putting together a combined lap. Topham went first and duly recorded pole for Race 1. Turner was next up and his 1m42.982s time to secure pole for Race 2 would stand as the fastest GT4 lap of the weekend.
“Starting Race 1, Matt was on pole on merit, not because of an accumulative effort between the two of us,” explained Turner. “He was ahead of some fast Silver Class drivers and proved that he had the pace to run at the front, just as he’d shown in testing on the Friday.”
That all being said, Topham allowed caution to play the better part of valour in the early stages of the first race, letting the Silver Cup title-chasing BMW move ahead in the dry first race. Content to run second through his stint, Topham then handed the car over to Turner in the stops, and without a pitlane success penalty to serve, the duo assumed a healthy lead.
“The Vantage GT4 is a very compliant racing car, and great fun to race around a wonderful circuit like Oulton Park, so I was having some fun out there,” said Turner. “Coming out of the hairpin, I could see the gap I had to the BMW, so I was able to measure my pace based on that. Throughout the race, we were both conscious that our priority was to maintain our Pro-Am points lead so we were being measured in our risk-taking.”
After their Silverstone debut, this victory marked the second time Turner and Topham had won the GT4 class outright.
Torrential rain changed the complexion of the second race, which Turner started from his pole position. “As we saw in Spa, we’re still discovering the car’s ultimate performance in the wet, and learning the best tyre pressures etc,” said Turner. “And again, our race wasn’t with the Silver Cup cars, but our key rivals in Pro-Am, so we played it safe.”
With the conditions treacherous and the battle at the front of GT4 heated, Turner was content to sit in third position in the early stages and keep a watching brief until the inevitable Safety Car Period. This could have played into the team’s hands, given the 10-second success penalty they had to serve for winning Race 1, but unfortunately timing is everything…
“We had a radio issue, so I had no idea as I came around on the last quarter of lap 15 that the GT4 pit window had opened. The car in front of me continued, and I decided to follow him because the potential time penalty for pitting outside of the window would have been disastrous. It meant we missed out on track position when I did pit a lap later which was frustrating, but these things happen.”
Turner handed the car over to Topham who rejoined at the back of the train and put on another charge to race his way back up to third in class by the end of the race.
“To be honest, third was what we would have taken at the start of the race,” said Turner. “Second might have been possible, but the win was out of reach in those conditions. All-in-all it was a massively successful weekend and puts us in a reasonable position going into the final round of the championship at Donington Park.”
Indeed Turner and Topham now share the Pro-Am Championship lead with 143 points from their nearest rivals Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley on 128.5, meaning the Aston Martin Racing works driver is now within sight of his first ever British GT Championship title.
Before the British GT finale, which takes place at Donington Park on 16-17 October, Turner will take part in his favourite event of the year, the Goodwood Revival, next weekend on 18-19 September.