The second round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship delivered the same result as the first for Darren Turner today at Spa. He and Stefan Mucke, joined by their Le Mans team-mate Rob Bell, took fifth place in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
The trio’s race strategy was effectively turned on it’s head by an early race puncture and despite taking the lead at the start the fight-back could only take them to fifth place at the chequered flag.
Turner and Mucke’s aggregate fastest lap times put the #97 Aston Martin in third place on the GTE Pro grid for Saturday’s six-hour race, which set Mucke up for a good start.
“Stefan went from third to first in the opening lap and managed to pull out a healthy gap during the first half of his stint,” said Darren. “He then came on the radio to say he had a tyre pressure warning and sure enough we had a slow puncture in the left rear. This forced him to pit early, which totally changed the dynamics of the race for us as we were then out of sync with everyone else.”
Such is the level of competition in GTE Pro just one small problem will completely change the face of the race and despite the races being six-hours in length there is no let up in the pace. The #97 crew fought their way up the rankings during each stint but the fact that they had to do an extra pit stop at the end ultimately put paid to their chances of a trip to the podium.
“That wasn’t the easiest race for us,” explained Darren. “It’s frustrating as we could have had a podium at the least and potentially a win today but it only takes one small thing to put you out of contention. We also had some inconsistencies between different sets of tyres so we need to understand how to get consistency from one set to another.
“The #99 car showed that a five-stop strategy worked and that’s what we would have been doing,” he continued. “Congratulations to them though for taking the win. They put in a fantastic couple of laps in qualifying and ran consistently during the race so they deserved the top result.”
Traditionally the dress rehearsal for the Le Mans 24 Hours, Spa produced a drama-filled race this year, which has set the scene for a Le Mans that is wide open in every class.
“We need to focus on Le Mans now,” said Darren. “It was good to have Rob in the car this weekend as it gives us a fresh set of eyes on where we are with the car and also gives Rob the chance to get up to speed in the Aston. His experience in other cars – and in this car from previous years – is always valuable.”
The Le Mans Test Day takes place in four weeks’ time ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours, which takes place on 13-14 June.