Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner’s busy return to racing action following the coronavirus lockdown continued with a strong performance on his debut with US-based The Heart of Racing team at Road Atlanta on Saturday.
Turner was drafted in by the new Aston Martin Racing partner team to assist in its IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar GTD campaign and help develop its Vantage GT3. The Briton immediately gelled with the new-for-2020 squad and its drivers Ian James and Roman DeAngelis, and Turner played a key role in the outfit’s hard-fought sixth in class – its best finish so far.
“It was the strongest result for the team yet,” said Turner. “It’s clear they have a lot of potential and they are a good outfit. There is still a lot for everyone to learn about how to extract the maximum performance from the Vantage GT3 on a typical American track, which tends to be bumpier than those we encounter in Europe.
“We also need to do more work to understand how to engage the tyres properly at the beginning of stints, so taking this all into account, this is a good result and bodes well for the team and car’s development potential in the future.”
Turner has always loved racing at Road Atlanta, the undulating and sweeping 2.54-mile track based near Braselton in Georgia, and actually won the GT1 class of the 2006 Petit Le Mans race with Aston Martin Racing.
“The circuit is a proper challenge!” he said. “I absolutely love it. And there is no respite at all, even the back stretch is not really a straight.
“You have to focus with the heavy braking zone into the chicane, but also the faster DPis (prototypes) are always on you. There is something going on all the time. It’s a fairly short circuit and it’s easy to be tagged by one of the DPis, especially in the downhill Esses section where you only require a little bit of contact and it all escalates really quickly!”
The THoR Aston Martin Vantage began the race from a lowly starting position after losing set-up time in practice, but James made fantastic early progress to fight his way into the top six before handing over to DeAngelis.
“The original plan was for Roman to do a double-stint before handing over to me to finish the race, but new padding he’d had made for his seat moved out of position and it made sense to switch the strategy around and I jumped in mid-race.
“The strategy then changed again while I was in the car when we saw an opportunity to gain ground during a Safety Car period and I stayed in for a double stint.
“I was happy with my stint. It was a bit like finding myself in the lion’s den. Though I’d raced at the Nürburgring last weekend, this is a much more physical circuit and I’d only had a few laps in practice, so I had to steal myself and find a groove really quickly. Once we got some heat into the tyres, I enjoyed the stint.”
A final restart late in the race, once DeAngelis had taken over the car again gave the team a crack at a top five finish, but alas there simply was not enough time left to mount an effective challenge.
“I think sixth is a good result to build on,” said Turner. “I really enjoyed being back in the IMSA paddock, which even with the Covid-19 safety measures, is such a friendly paddock. We’ve identified some really key areas to work on and I think there are clear paths forward for development, so I’m hoping I’ll get to play a role in that over the coming races.”