Aston Martin Racing works driver Darren Turner moved within striking distance of the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am lead, when he and his team-mates Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn finished second in the Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday.
It was the third time in four WEC races that Turner has stood on the GTE Am podium, and it was his first runner-up finish since the season-opener at Silverstone back in August.
But while a first win of the 2019/20 season remains tantalisingly out of his reach for now, Turner left the Middle East delighted to end his year on a high, particularly following such a strong result in one of the most challenging rounds of the series.
“Eight hours around Bahrain is a serious proposition,” he said. “It’s a difficult race with brakes being the biggest issue for everyone. It’s such a hard circuit on that element of the car because there are four hard stops on each lap and, over eight hours, that takes its toll.
“We’ve been promising a strong run for a while, and we knew from our pace in the other races that if we could avoid getting drawn into other’s incidents we would be able to deliver a good result, which is exactly what we did.”
Turner is used to good results in Bahrain, indeed it is one of those tracks that seems to just naturally suit the Briton.
Of the seven WEC events held on the desert track, Turner has been on the class pole position three times and won the GTE Pro class in 2016. In total he’s stood on the podium there four times. With that record, he’d been hoping to start higher than sixth on the GTE Am class grid…
“Qualifying didn’t go quite to plan,” he explained. “We had a braking issue in qualifying so I didn’t quite get a lap together and that was a bit frustrating. But P6 meant we were in the mix and that was enough.”
Turner’s team-mate Dalla Lana, whose last visit to Bahrain in 2017 saw him clinch the GTE AM world title with a race win, made immediate headway and moved up to fourth position.
Then, through the course of his stint, the Canadian forced his way up to second. Dalla Lana and Gunn shared shifts through the first half of the race, variously moving between second and third to account for the differing strategies of rivals. When Turner was introduced to the mix for the first of two stints, his job was to solidify the #98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE’s position in P2, which he duly did.
“The idea was to complete Paul’s allotted time in the car earlier in the race, when he could make the most difference to the outcome, and then myself and Ross would share the second half of the race,” explained Turner. “I got two stints out there and I was very happy with my pace.
“I didn’t make any mistakes and the biggest fear I had was having a big lock-up that damaged a tyre or something that compromised our position. But that didn’t happen and I think we got the very best from the weekend that we possibly could.
Because the 8 Hours of Bahrain was longer than a standard WEC event, it is worth 1.5x the points. So finishing second allowed Turner and his team-mates to make up for the non-points finish in Japan and thrusts them back into the mix for the title. They are now 12.5 points behind the leaders in third position with 60.5.
“It’s clawed us back into the title championship hunt,” said Turner. “We are not far off the lead now.
“We need to keep building on these podiums and of course we want to be on the top step. We need to just make sure we have a bit more overall performance and capitalise when we are in that position. And we will!”