Darren Turner kept his 100% record in the 2021 British GT Championship with another outstanding performance, making it two Pro-Am class wins from two starts with the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4, at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday.
The Aston Martin Racing works driver picked up precisely where he had left off in British GT at Silverstone in July, as he re-joined regular co-driver Matt Topham in the team for the two-hour event in Belgium.
Turner missed the previous round at Donington Park because of clashing commitments at the Goodwood Festival of Speed where he was called up to drive the new Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar.
The duo had gelled perfectly as a driver pairing during their victorious GT4 debut in the Silverstone 500 last month, and Turner and Topham once again showed prodigious pace throughout the weekend in Spa. Indeed, they were in the hunt for the GT4 pole position before eventually settling for third in class (second in the Pro-Am), while Turner also set the fastest GT4 time of all in the session.
“The car felt perfect all weekend and it was a joy to drive,” said Turner. “Matt is a really strong Am team-mate and he’s improving all the time, which makes these weekends a lot of fun to compete in.”
Topham took the start but was immediately delayed, coming to an emergency standstill to avoid being involved in a multi-car accident at the front of the grid. Having dropped to the back of the field, the resulting four-lap Safety Car period proved a small blessing as he was able to close up to the pack by the time the race went back to green.
Topham then set about on a charge, working his way up into the GT4 Pro-Am lead, seventh in GT4 and 12th overall before pitting to hand over to Turner. Following the team’s non-score in Donington, they were able to benefit from a shorter pitstop than some of their rivals who needed to serve success penalties. This meant Turner left the pits in ninth position overall as the Pro-Am leader, and third in the overall GT4 class.
“Matt did a great job,” said Turner. “He did the right thing at the start when it all kicked off up at the front, and he managed to avoid the carnage. He protected the car well and set a great pace. He did get tagged by the Ginetta early on, which cost him a lot of ground, but then he got his head down and put together a strong and solid stint.
“We made up ground on our rivals because we didn’t have any success penalties in the pits and I was really happy with the car; I was really enjoying myself.”
Just as he had at Silverstone, Turner used his experience and guile to set a blistering pace in the Vantage and quickly bore down on and dispensed with the McLaren in second position. Once past that, he zeroed in on the class-leading McLaren. Turner caught his rival with 15 minutes to go and took the lead with a daring pass for the lead around the outside of the challenging Pouhon double left-hander.
“Once I got by them, I pulled out an 11s lead,” said Turner. “And to be honest after that it was a straightforward run to the flag.” Indeed such was Turner’s progress that he climbed to sixth position overall before the team was served with a drive-through penalty for track limits violations.
This was retrospectively added to the result and meant that while Turner and Topham kept the Pro-Am win they dropped to seventh overall and were classified second in the GT4 class.
“We've looked through our footage and we still can't see where we earned the penalty,” said Turner. “Unfortunately, you're not allowed to appeal a judgement of fact in this series. It’s disappointing, and if it's that marginal, then it’s not great for the racing.
“Everyone makes huge efforts to race abroad in these difficult times when it's not easy to get around, so it’s frustrating that you can have a result taken away by something that doesn't seem to reflect the actual situation. As much as it's disappointing, it's just one of those things and you just have to take it on the chin.
“But the team is very happy with their second Pro-Am win, and it’s been another very positive race weekend. These are good points for the championship, so all in all we can leave Belgium satisfied we’ve done the maximum!”
Turner will return to action in the British GT Championship in two week’s time when the series moves on to Snetterton for the first of two double-header race weekends, on 7-8 August.