Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner returned to racing action for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown on Saturday, and immediately found himself back on the podium with the Garage 59 team.
The Briton, who hadn’t raced since finishing on the podium in the Lone Star 6 Hours World Endurance Championship race at the Circuit of The Americas in February, has joined G59 to contest the ADAC Total 24 Hours on the fearsome 15.5-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit next month.
But before that he and his team-mates Alexander West and Aston Martin high performance test driver Chris Goodwin gave the new Aston Martin Vantage GT8R its race debut in the N24 warm-up race – the ROWE 6-Hour Nürburgring Langstrecken Serie race on Saturday.
“It was great to be back in the car, and it took me a few corners to remind myself of what it was all about, but it soon came back!” said Turner. “You only ever really get a few laps practice on the Nordschleife because an out-lap, a flying lap and an in-lap can take nearly 30 minutes. But I settled in quickly and the car had some good pace.
“I’ve known G59 team principal Andrew Kirkaldy, Chris and their engineer James Carter for years, so while it was the first time I’d raced for the team, it all felt very familiar. They are an excellent team and we were able to focus on the job really quickly.”
The team wasn’t able to demonstrate that pace in qualifying because of some issues with the brand new package, but in the race the GT8R proved bulletproof and a competitive force on its debut in the SP8T class.
“We started fourth in class but we quickly found ourselves moving up. The car was fast and easy to drive. It’s based on the Vantage GT4, but it has more power and downforce and less drag and you could really feel the difference straight away. That being said we still have some work to do before we are anywhere near the potential of the car.”
Turner took over from West, who started the race from P4 in class and put in a strong first stint to hand the car over to Goodwin in second position. Ultimately that is where the team stayed through to the end of the race after winning out in a battle with a rival Mercedes.
“It was fantastic to get a result with the team on the car’s debut and my first time out with them. The car ran faultlessly and we know where we need to find some more pace to challenge our rivals in the N24 next month. I can’t wait to go back!”
Before that though, Turner is going to be busy as he embarks on yet another new adventure in the US with Aston Martin Racing partner team The Heart of Racing in the IMSA GTD class.
The Briton has been called up to join the team’s regulars Ian James and Roman DeAngelis for the 6 Hour race at Road Atlanta, scene of Turner’s famous Petit Le Mans victory with Aston Martin in 2006.
“I’m delighted to be joining The Heart of Racing at Road Atlanta,” said Turner. “Apart from it being one of my favourite venues in the US, I love racing in IMSA and I’m really looking forward to going back there. Joining THoR is also exactly the kind of challenge I relish. They may be a new team, but they are making solid progress with every race and you can tell that there is great potential there. Hopefully we can have a very strong weekend and build it up to the last three races of the season.”