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Turner and Topham take British GT4 Pro Am Championship lead

Darren Turner came away from a challenging British GT Championship double-header at Snetterton with another podium. He now shares the lead of the GT4 Pro-Am class with Newbridge Motorsport co-driver Matt Topham for the first time this season.

The duo took a GT4 overall class win on their debut at Silverstone in June and were pace-setters in the previous round at Spa-Francorchamps. But they needed to apply a damage-limitation mentality to their weekend at Snetterton to ensure their Aston Martin Vantage GT4 collected a bundle of points in spite of seemingly ever-present misfortune throughout the two, hour-long races.

“Sometimes racing is like this, but it’s always important to maximise your situation,” said Turner, “especially when you are in the hunt for a championship. You can’t win every weekend, so in the races where you are not at the front, you have to be scoring points, and often these are the ones that define your campaign.”

Topham started the first race from the back of the grid after some issues in qualifying. The track was dry and he made a charging start, moving up four places on the opening lap and taking second in the Pro-Am class. Incidental contact with a rival (that would later cost the team a time penalty) dropped him back to third before he engaged in a battle with the Fox Motorsport McLaren, recovering back to second and then pitting to hand over to Turner.

A seven-second success penalty for second place at Spa dropped Turner back behind the McLaren and he set about trying to regain the position. But try as he might, there was simply no way past. Turner ultimately finished fifth in the Pro-Am class thanks to the penalty, having come mightily close to another podium.

“Around Snetterton you have to have a big speed advantage in the car to pass another ‘Pro’ driver,” said Turner. “The McLaren just had the edge over us on the second half of the straight and it was very difficult to get close enough to attack. Twice I got underneath him (Jamie Stanley) through Oggies, but he shut the door on the exit both times and there was contact.

“Elsewhere there wasn’t a lot of pace in the McLaren and he was obviously defending every corner. He covered every base and didn’t do anything I wouldn’t have done.”

Race two began wet, with Turner having qualified the second fastest GT4 contender overall. The works Aston Martin Racing driver made a great start and established himself in the lead through Riches (Turn 1), only to have a Toyota make contact with him on the outside into the hairpin, immediately puncturing his left-front tyre.

“I wasn’t that far behind the McLaren GT3, so there wasn’t anywhere else I could go to avoid it. He went sailing past and only just stopped before the grass, it showed how much speed he was carrying. It’s frustrating because that Toyota was probably the class of the field, in terms of wet performance, and it looked like he was trying to find it all in two corners.”

The incident also eliminated several other GT4 cars including three of Turner’s Pro-Am rivals, which was small consolation for the Briton as he drove slowly back to the pits for two-thirds of the lap.

“By the time I got to Turn 4 the tyre had completely lost all of its air and the majority of the lap from there on is right-handers so it was pretty tricky to get the car back without doing any damage. I had to drive very steadily.”

This and the resulting pit-stop dropped the Vantage GT4 a lap down. It was doubly galling for the team when then organisers then sent out the Safety Car to allow for the wreckage to be cleared.

“If we’d not been a lap down, it might have been game on from the back of the pack,” explained Turner. “But the car had picked up some damage in the incident, and between that and the weather, bringing the car home in the points was the crucial objective.”

In such a short race, there was little chance to recover the lost lap, but Topham did an excellent job to bring the Vantage home safely in second, giving the duo another opportunity to stand on the Pro-Am podium.

“To come away from a weekend like this and still move into the championship lead is a very good sign,” said Turner. “We’ve proved we have the pace and we were fast again this weekend, so we can bounce back in terms of results and if we can we’re in the perfect position in the championship to start from.”

Turner returns to action next weekend (14-15 August) with the Feathers Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the UK Cup at Silverstone. His next outing in the British GT Championship will be at Oulton Park on 11-12 September.