Darren Turner recorded his third class victory in the ADAC Total 24 Hours of the Nürburgring in five years last weekend (5-6 June) as the British racing driver played a key role in a small but significant piece of endurance racing history.
The Space Drive Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 he raced along with W&S Motorsport team-mates Philip Ellis, Tim Scheerbarth and Dominik Farnbacher, with its unique steer-by-wire system, won the SPX class and completed the event inside the top 20.
The team’s target was to finish the race unhindered with the revolutionary Schaeffler Paravan Space Drive technology which doesn’t feature a steering column and operates in a similar way to that of a simulator steering system. Not only did they achieve this, they might even have recorded a top ten result given the car’s progress from 32nd on the grid to 16th by the chequered flag.
But the chaotic weather-affected race was shortened by more than 14 hours after severe fog in the Eiffel region rendered the 25km-long Nordschleiffe undriveable and stopped the action overnight.
“They were really difficult conditions for the drivers,” said Turner. “It’s what you come to expect from the Nürburgring, but it was clearly the right decision to make.
“It was actually a little bit disappointing for us as drivers, because we would all have liked to have done more racing and put more distance on the car, but we achieved another milestone in the history of the technology.”
The race was stopped at 2130 local time after just under six hours of racing and eventually restarted at midday on Sunday, meaning it was the shortest Nürburgring 24 Hours since the event first ran in 1970.
Prior to the stoppage, Turner had taken over the car from Ellis, who started the race in intermittent but heavy downpours. By the time Darren climbed in, the track conditions had settled down and he was able to progress quickly.
“Phillip had the worst of the conditions, and although the track was damp, it was okay,” explained Darren. “As always at the Nürburgring you are dealing with a lot of slower traffic and Code 60s, but while it did feel a little more chaotic than usual out there I think it was because we actually spent so much less time on the track overall.”
Turner’s second stint took place after Farnbacher had taken the restart at noon on Sunday, where the car took the ‘red-flag’ grid in 26th position. It subsequently made up another 10 positions before the chequered flag finally waved two and a half hours later.
“It was a thoroughly enjoyable race, we started 32nd and climbed to 16th at the end,” said Turner. “The team ran a clean strategy and no one put a foot wrong. The target was always to try and get to the finish, highlight the steer-by-wire system and its capabilities and prove its durability by running around the Nordschleiffe on what was hoped to be a 24 hour race but ended being 10!
“The technology worked incredibly well, and it doesn’t take you long to get used to the subtle differences required to get the maximum from it once you’re up and racing.
“It’s been a fantastic experience, and a real education, and I have to say thank you to the team for inviting me to be a part of it.”
Up next for Turner is a return to the British GT Championship, when he makes his Aston Martin Vantage GT4 debut in the series alongside Matt Topham with Newbridge Motorsport, on 25-26 June at Silverstone.