Darren Turner's hopes of a strong result in the 6 Hours of Fuji FIA World Endurance Championship race were dashed before he had even turned a wheel on Sunday.
The works Aston Martin Racing driver, along with his team-mates Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn, had been expecting to fight for victory in the GTE Am class after their second-placed finish in the opening round of the championship last month. Instead, they were forced to consign the race to history as an elaborate test session, after a rival Porsche careered into Dalla Lana on the opening lap of the race. "It was really frustrating because the weekend had been building up pretty well," said Turner. "Both Paul and Ross did a great job in qualifying putting the car third on the grid and that was despite carrying 20kg success ballast over from Silverstone. It was all looking very good." Indeed the Aston Martin Vantage GTE challenger was well matched to the Fuji Speedway, with Turner's rivals in the TF Sport version on pole position, and the two works GTE Pro cars also well-placed. This had all given cause for quiet confidence in Turner's #98 crew. "We were feeling quite positive for the race, and I was very happy with the car balance. "Paul had a good opening two thirds of the first lap, was running in third and under control. But unfortunately as the field went into Turn 10, Paul was already turned into the corner when the #88 Porsche came out of nowhere, all locked up out of control and t-boned him. The accident caused a lot of damage to the right-rear suspension."
Dalla Lana brought the car back to the pits, but by the time it was repaired all hope of a big points haul from Fuji had gone. Indeed, Turner and his co-drivers needed misfortune to befall one of his rivals even to score a point, though that never came to pass. "Paul was lucky to be able to get the car back to the pits and then it took 30 minutes or so for the #98 crew, with the help of everyone else on #97 and #95 to fix the rear end of the car and get it back out there. "Every point is critical in a championship and you don't score any for finishing 11th." With that time lost in the pits, and the requirement for both Dalla Lana and Gunn to achieve minimum track time, it meant Turner only got one race stint in the car. "It also rained, so I was in and out of the pits during the Full Course Yellows and was trying some tyres for the Pro cars at the time as well. So it was little more than a test really. "It's a shame to come all this way and for it to be all over before the end of the first lap through no fault of the team or the drivers. I felt really sorry for Paul as he's been driving really well this weekend. "Everyone will have misfortune at some point and we've had it early on. We just need to gather ourselves together and focus on trying to achieve the maximum when we get to China." Darren could at least console himself in the fact that Aston Martin Racing won the race in GTE Pro and TF Sport took the Am victory. "It means we know the car can win, and we would have likely been in the mix ourselves if it wasn't for the crash. Next time..."