Darren Turner Head Shot

The #99 Beechdean Aston Martin V8 Vantage completed the fifth round of the European Le Mans Series at Spa in Belgium today in fifth position, holding onto second place in the LM GTE driver’s and team’s championship. The race wasn’t plain sailing for the team however and for Turner it was probably the shortest race of his career as he was only behind the wheel of the Aston Martin for 27 minutes!

Turner took the wheel for qualifying on Saturday and took fifth place in class after running wide on a quick run.

“The car felt really good for qualifying,” said Turner. “Really hooked up and fast. We knew we had a great race set up but might not have that one-lap performance needed for pole position.  Unfortunately I took a bit too much kerb at Eau Rouge and got a warning for track limits so I backed off on what would have been the best lap for the Dunlop tyres.  I managed to put a good lap together after that but it was only enough for fifth place on the grid.”

Alex MacDowall was on start duty for today’s four-hour race and the drama began before he could even take the start.  It is normal procedure for radiator blanking to be put in the cars on the grid to keep everything warm. Unfortunately the blanking wasn’t removed before the start so as soon as McDowall went out on the formation lap he saw the Aston Martin’s temperatures shoot up but luckily he made it back to the pits before the car overheated.

Blanking removed he headed out again but was held at the end of the pit lane for a full, excruciatingly long lap.  According to the ELMS regulations, if you pull into the pits on the formation lap you have to let the entire field complete a full racing lap before you can rejoin.

MacDowall completed a good first stint, which saw the first of the Full Course Yellows and ultimately Safety Cars that would pepper the Spa race.  Next up was Andrew Howard who completed a strong stint with no issues.

Turner jumped in with two hours of the race left to run, joining the track under yellow flag conditions, which were then elevated to a long Safety Car period as successive LMP2 cars hitting the guardrail at the exit of Turn 8 necessitated lengthy repairs before the race could be resumed at full pace.

The team made a strategy call at this point, which involved putting MacDowall back in the car early and completing a driver change under Safety Car conditions. This would save a ‘green’ pit stop later in the race when Turner would jump back in for the run to the flag. 

As it transpired Turner didn’t get back in. Just as he was about to take his turn the Ferrari the team was battling for fifth place suffered a puncture so with fifth place safe and fourth too far ahead it made sense for MacDowall to stay onboard and make the most of the track time. He crossed the line in fifth place.

“That was definitely one of the strangest races I have done,” said Turner. “But also one of the least stressful ones! We’ve got one more race to go now and, as JMW took all the points today they are unstoppable unless they totally mess it up at Estoril.  Our chances are slim but we’ll get stuck in nonetheless and make sure we defend any attacks on our runner up position. 

The final round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series takes place at Estoril in Portugal on 23 October.