Darren Turner swapped GTE for GT3 this weekend to compete in the ADAC Zurich Nürburgring 24 Hours for Aston Martin. Along with Stefan Mucke, Pedro Lamy and Allan Simonsen, the British driver raced the No.007 Bilstein-liveried V12 Vantage GT3 to a very strong top ten finish in what could possibly be the shortest 24-hour race of his career.
Sir Jackie Stewart didn’t call the Nordschleife the ‘Green Hell’ because it has a forgiving nature. The track that weaves through the Eifel forests of Germany is daunting enough in fine weather but the fog and rain that moved in last night made it too treacherous, even for the best sportscar drivers in the world to navigate. Rain eventually stopped play for over nine hours of the 24-hour race.
Pedro Lamy was the man chosen for the Top 40 qualifying shootout and the five-time veteran of the Nürburgring 24 Hours put the V12 Vantage GT3 on the front row of the grid after clocking the second fastest time of the session.
“As Pedro has the most experience here he drew the short straw and got to take the start,” said Darren, who has now completed three Nürburgring 24 Hours. “The expected rain hadn’t arrived though so it was okay. He did a great job and kept out of trouble during those laps where it can get just a little too exciting.”
Simonsen jumped in for the second stint and a new set of soft tyres helped him push the Aston Martin into the lead of the race before handing over to Darren.
“I got jumped by an Audi in the pits,” explained Darren. “So my job was to push hard and close him down again. The car was so good in the dry and after I took the lead I was able to build up a 13 second gap before handing over to Stefan.”
At the end of Darren’s stint he spotted some ominous drops of rain at Döttinger Höhe and sure enough just a few laps into the German’s run he had to pit for wet tyres. Stefan maintained the lead throughout his stint and then as the weather worsened he pitted to hand over to Lamy.
On Pedro’s out lap the race was red flagged as the conditions were deemed too dangerous. This gave everyone the opportunity to return to the pits and check their cars over. Little did they know then that the restart wouldn’t come until around 08:00hrs the following morning, over nine hours later.
The ‘second half’ got underway in very wet conditions and Lamy struggled to make it stick during the opening laps and dropped down a few places.
“We just can’t get the wet tyres to work here,” explained Darren. “As soon as the track started drying the pace came back. Luckily for me most of my second stint was on a drying track so I got to race on cut slicks.
“I think this is the shortest amount of time I have driven in a 24 hour race,” he continued. “Just this circuit itself though is a challenge, never mind the different speeds of cars and different skill levels of drivers. You really need to keep your wits about you.
“Overall this top 10 result is great,” Darren concluded. “We had front-running pace in the dry, proved by the fact we led most of the first half. We need to go away now and work out how to make the most of the wet tyres but I think we can all be very pleased with our performance this weekend.”
An English journalist who visited the Nordschleife during the opening race on 18 June 1927 concluded, “that it seemed as if a reeling, drunken giant had been sent out to determine the route”.