In a Le Mans 24 Hours that will go down in history as the race that brought down many of the giants of motorsport, Darren Turner came agonisingly close to his third Le Mans victory.
Darren took the start of the race in the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE from a hard-earned third position on the grid. He did a great job to hold position and was still behind the wheel one and a half hours into the race when a torrential rain shower caught out many of the runners. Darren pitted under the safety car to hand over to Stefan but when the rain stopped as soon as it started the German had to stop again for slick tyres, dropping the Aston down the order.
Bruno Senna jumped in next and ran a three-hour stint, managing to pass two Porsches and hand the car back to Darren in second place.
“Once everything settled down after the early race rain and safety cars, we were all bunched together but all on different tyres so there was a lot of chopping and changing of position,” said Darren. “I had a fun battle with Fisichella and Westbrook and once I got past them I was able to pull out a reasonable lead.”
By the eight-hour mark Darren had a 14-second lead over the next GTE Pro car, much to the delight of the thousands of British fans cheering him on.
The GTE Pro battle continued throughout the night – Aston Martin vs. Corvette vs. Ferrari – and the Aston stayed on top for much of the time.
?The lead only slipped in the early morning when the Aston pitted for a brake change, which let the Ferrari take the lead. Then an unfortunately timed safety car widened the gap between the Aston Martin and the No.51 Ferrari. Once the Ferrari made it’s own stop for a brake change Mucke was able to regain the lead.
Well into the 18th hour the trouble began. Senna had to pit with a power steering problem, which kept the Vantage in the garage for just over 20 minutes, dropping it to fourth place.
Darren jumped in at this point to spearhead the fightback. As the lap times fell the gap began to close but ultimately it was a fight that couldn’t be won.
“The team said I could go for it and try to pick up points but what we really needed was for the guys ahead to have problems too,” explained Darren. “Unfortunately a while later I just glanced the tyre barrier going into Mulsanne Corner, which pushed the sill onto the exhaust manifold, which then cracked five laps later.”
The No.97 Aston Martin Vantage finished the Le Mans 24 Hours in sixth place in class but collected a good haul of FIA World Endurance Championship points as it was a third place in WEC points.
“We struggled here at the Test Day and even during practice and qualifying it was looking difficult,” said Darren. “Once the track rubbered up in the race though the car came alive and we finally had the pace to compete with the Porsches and Ferraris. It wasn’t our day though but we will be back next year to do this amazing race all over again.”