Darren Turner took a fourth place finish in Saturday’s ‘VLN 2’, the last race at the Nordschleife before the Nürburgring 24 Hours later this month. Nicknamed the ‘Green Hell’ by Sir Jackie Stewart, the 12.9-mile Nordschleife is more ‘Green Heaven’ as far as Turner is concerned.
“When you think about all the research and design that goes into modern racing circuits, there is this circuit in Germany that was built in the 1920s that is the best ribbon of tarmac in the world,” said Turner. “Add to that the performance of the modern GT3 cars and the traffic management that you have to do and any race on the Nordschleife is incredible. There isn’t a moment to relax and I enjoy every second of it.”
Turner and one of his regular WEC team-mates Nicki Thiim raced the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 at the weekend. Marco Sørensen and Pedro Lamy will join them for the 24-hour race.
The race meeting started with a test on Wednesday, which would give the Aston Martin team the first opportunity to run at the Nordschleife with new tyre partner Dunlop but that was quickly curtailed by snow.
“I know the Nordschleife is famous for rain but the snow certainly made it interesting,” said Turner. “I went out for a recce lap at one point and found a patch of ice at 150mph. It wasn’t so much that my heart went in my mouth but rather my heart dropped right down into my feet before it got up to my mouth!”
Friday was practice day and despite further changeable weather the team managed to get through its programme of understanding the tyres and deciding on set up for the race.
The qualifying session for VLN races is an hour-long session where any driver can go out and set a time. Turner started the session on a wet track but as it dried the times began to fall. Thiim was on track at the end and put the Aston Martin on the third row of the grid in sixth position. He had been running as high as second but with the track drying so quickly at the end the cars behind him on that last long lap of the Nordschleife went faster.
Thiim was at the wheel for the start of the four-hour race on Saturday. He ran in the top 10 throughout his run, moving between second and eighth place depending on different pit stop strategies, as the track started wet but soon dried.
“I jumped in for what I thought would be a single stint but it ended up being a double as the weather changed our strategy,” said Turner. “The following two and a bit hours was the longest stint I’ve ever done there and I loved every minute of it. There were a few little rain showers, which affected some parts of the circuit but never enough to contemplate pitting for wets. On my last lap though it poured down and the Nordschleife isn’t nice when you are on slicks in the wet!
“It’s an amazing circuit,” he continued. “We had an exhilarating race and we were very pleased to finish in fourth place. I’m really looking forward to getting back for the Nürburgring 24 Hours now.”