Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner achieved a career first last weekend when he managed to occupy both the second and third positions on a class podium at the Nürburgring.
The Briton participated in Sunday’s six-hour qualification race for the ADAC TOTAL 24H Race, which takes place on 22-23 June, on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Turner, an SP8 Class winner of the world’s most challenging 24 hour race in 2017, was entered in both of the AMR Performance Centre’s new Aston Martin Vantage GT4s and played a starring role in them finishing second and third in the SP8T Class in last weekend’s six-hour event. “I’ve never had that experience before!,” said the three-time Le Mans 24 Hours class winner, who was split across the two cars in order for the team to get the maximum benefit of his pace and experience as it prepares to give the Vantage GT4 its 24-hour race debut next month. “The last time I drove one of the new GT4s in anger was in September last year when we did an endurance test at Paul Ricard and it’s clearly developed a lot since then,” added Turner. “We've made really good progress with the car. Plus we are able to run it with more power than is standard for GT4 level, so the top speed was pretty cool. “It was really fun to drive, even in the damp conditions which we had during qualifying on the Saturday as well as in the race itself.”
Neither car, the #36 he shared with Top Gear presenter Chris Harris and Chris Goodwin or the #37 he co-drove alongside Alex Brundle and Peter Cate, qualified highly as the team focussed on race set-up. But they came into their own in the damp-but-drying race conditions. “With that type of race it’s not absolutely critical to maximise qualifying, but having a car you are happy to race with around the Nordschleife is vital,” explained Turner, who started the race with the #36 Vantage GT4. Indeed, his decision to pit for slicks at the end of the formation lap was pivotal to the car leading the class in the early stages, and it briefly featured in the overall top 20. “I had first call on when to come in,’ said Turner. “An average lap around there is about 10 minutes, which is a long time to spend on the wrong tyres. On the formation lap, the first quarter of the circuit seemed wet, but with a dry line appearing, and once we got around the majority of the Nordschleife there was a 100% dry line. So I pitted straight away, and this also meant that Peter in the sister car wouldn’t have to wait two racing laps to pit.” After a stellar single stint in the #36, Turner switched to the sister car and was instrumental in placing it near the front of the class. In fact the #37 ultimately clinched second position as the first of the two Aston Martins to pass the chequered flag.
“Both cars felt nearly identical,” said Turner afterwards. “We’ve got 12 hours more data to work on ahead of the N24 and the general feeling for the car is the same among the five drivers that were there this weekend. "We just need to fine tune them now and I am very positive about what our car performance will be like when we get to the N24.”