Darren Turner heads to France this week for the annual pilgrimage to Le Mans. A two-time class winner for Aston Martin, Darren is now one of the most experienced drivers on the grid with 11 Le Mans 24 Hours starts already under his belt.
The Le Mans 24 Hours is a race like no other, where the unexpected inevitably happens so the pre-event official test day is a must for the competitors.
“The test day was a day of two halves for us,” said Darren. “In the morning we struggled to get a clear lap as there was a lot of safety car and slow zone stuff going on so it was a pretty interrupted morning. We were doing what I call ‘homework’, doing all the things you need to do before going racing, such as bedding in brakes. We got through all our homework in the morning but didn’t put in a representative lap time. At lunchtime it looked pretty bad if all you did was look at the timesheets.
The afternoon session provided Darren and his Aston Martin Racing team-mates - Stefan Mucke and Bruno Senna - with a better insight into how the Vantage GTE will fare at this year’s 24-hour race.
“In the afternoon we managed to get some good laps in and, although we’re still a little bit off the competition, if you look at the sector times we’re not as far off as it looks,” explained Darren. “The car is different from last year: the 5mm ride height change we had over the winter has created a new problem for us at Le Mans. When we are in low downforce trim it affects the predictability of the car under braking. This makes the car a bit more of a handful but we just need to find a good balance to try and calm it down. It definitely feels on more of a knife-edge than last year so we need to work on making it the kind of driver-friendly car that you want in a 24-hour race.”
As demonstrated in the Spa round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Aston Martin is fully on the pace in wet conditions but in the dry there is a small gap to the competition so the race will be on when testing starts on Wednesday to unlock the potential in the Vantage GTE before qualifying takes place.
“I know qualifying isn’t the be all and end all at Le Mans but it’s important not to get mixed up with the GTE-Am cars,” said Darren. “That can really affect the first couple of hours after the start so we need to make sure we are towards the head of the GT pack on the grid.”
There is a four-hour practice session at Le Mans on Wednesday (16:00 – 20:00) before the first of three qualifying sessions takes place that night (22:00 – 00:00). Qualifying 2 and 3 take place at 19:00 – 21:00 and 22:00 – 00:00 on Thursday and the 24-hour race gets underway on Saturday at 15:00hrs. You can follow the action on lemans-tv.com, via the Le Mans 24 Hours app (’24 Heures du Mans 2014’) and follow Darren and his team on twitter at @DarrenTurner007 and @AMR_Official.