Darren Turner took the fight to Fuji in Japan last weekend as Aston Martin Racing continued the battle to regain its early season pace in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Along with his British teammate, Jonny Adam, Turner finished the Six Hours of Fuji in sixth place.
A Balance of Performance (BoP) change after Le Mans had a huge effect on all of the Vantage GTEs so the team was pleased to receive an adjustment after the last race in the U.S. but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to allow the Aston Martin squads to take the fight to Ferrari and Porsche.
“We had a small BoP change after COTA that took us around halfway back to where we were at the start of the year,” said Turner. “We all know that BoP is necessary to level the playing field across the different manufacturers and it is a difficult thing to get right. It wasn’t enough this time but it was a step in the right direction.”
Friday’s free practice sessions were held in dry conditions and both Turner and Adam found a balance in the car that they were both happy with. Qualifying too was dry and both drivers pushed as hard as they could to get that magic lap time but had to settle for sixth on the grid.
“We didn’t have any significant problems,” explained Turner. “My first and second laps went well but then I had double yellows on lap three and a Corvette in the way on lap four so I couldn’t improve. That said, the car felt good and we got as much out of it as we could but the BoP has put us in a different league.”
Sunday’s six-hour race had to be started behind the safety car as heavy rain had made the track too dangerous for the traditional rolling start. In fact, it wasn’t until 40 minutes into the race that the officials deemed the conditions to have improved sufficiently for the cars to be unleashed.
It was Adam’s turn to take the start and the team brought him in during the long opening safety car period for a top-up of fuel, thus giving the strategists more time to play with towards the end of the race.
When the safety car finally pitted after 40 minutes, Adam had to work his way past the amateur class cars before settling in to chase the pro runners. After a very long first stint, Adam pitted to hand the #97 Aston Martin over to Darren, who joined the race in seventh position.
“When I got in the track was starting to dry but it was horribly greasy,” said Turner. “Every time it got close to dry there would be more drizzle and that coupled with the low ambient temperature meant that it took a very long time for a dry line to appear. Luckily for us though this happened as I got to the end of my stint and needed fuel so I was able to stop for fuel and slicks at just the right moment.”
Adam rejoined the race on the almost dry track and began to get the times down but as the track dried further it became clear that Ferrari and Porsche still had the legs on the Aston Martins.
“I jumped in for the final stint but all we could do at that point was maintain our position,” said Turner. “The track was still pretty slippery, in fact some cars were weaving on the straight in the final hour just to try to get some temperature into the tyres.
“Strategically we were strong and the work in the pits was second to none but we are still a long way off on pace so some of that has got to be down to the BoP. Despite that we had a great time in Japan – it is always a brilliant event – and now I’m off to France for some more work with the Aston Martin Vulcan.”