A star performance by Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke in the FIA GT1 championship race in Abu Dhabi tonight salvaged a fifth-place finish for the duo after a disastrous end to what was most likely an assured victory in the qualifying race.
After topping the timesheets in the first free practice session of the new GT1 season, Darren and Stefan were consistently fast in qualifying yesterday and bagged second place on the grid for this afternoon’s race. Overnight though the pole-sitting Lamborghini received a five-place grid penalty for a flag infringement, which meant that Darren would start the qualifying race from pole position.
Darren got away well at the rolling start and maintained a clear three-second gap back to second place throughout his run. When the pit window opened he came in to hand over to Stefan but as soon as the German driver left the pits it was clear there was a problem. Unfortunately his left front wheel wasn’t fitted correctly and as soon as Stefan took to the track it began to work loose. That was the end of the race for the No.8 Aston Martin.
This result meant that Stefan would start tonight’s main race from the second to last row of the grid. He had a very busy first lap and managed to hussle his way up to eighth place before the cars passed the pits for the first time. At the pit stops he handed over to Darren in seventh place, which Darren duly turned into a fifth place finish, which scored the pair’s first 10 championship points of the season.
“I’m happy to get a result tonight, especially as we should have been starting that one from the front,” said Darren. “Stefan had a great opening lap and it was good to be able to get into the points. The pit stop was a little slow but I think everyone had their ups and downs today. I’m happy to be working with Stefan and our new race engineer. The team morale is good and I think we have a good season ahead of us.”
Darren returns to the UK tomorrow but is a little wary after being stranded in Abu Dhabi last year by the volcanic ash cloud.
“Now I’m watching to sky to check for ash clouds,” he commented. “Someone just said something about a sand storm though so I’m hoping everything will be okay!”