By Darren Turner
Since you heard from me last I’ve been back to America for the Daytona 24 Hours. It’s amazing to race at Daytona; the circuit isn’t technical, but it is interesting and it always produces a fun race. The infield is very tight and twisty, but you need to run low downforce, to make the most of the time you spend on the banking, so it can get quite tricky at times. Someone asked me if it was one of the tougher 24-hour races due to the fact that the hours of darkness are much longer in January, but it’s so well lit you could do it with your headlights switched off!
We found a really good balance in the car and our pace looked to be competitive so I was hoping to be in with a chance of winning a rather nice watch. Unfortunately one of my team-mates had a spin early on in the race and the clutch was damaged as he rejoined the circuit. This put us behind the wall for a while and took us out of contention for the podium. It was just one of those things, but we got back down to business and managed to get some good information on the upgrades we put on the Vantage GTE over the winter. We completed the race in sixth place in class so I’ll just have to go back another year to win that watch…
I wasn’t expecting to head back to the US until the Austin round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in September, but I’ve been called up to drive the #98 Aston Martin Vantage at Sebring, with the same crew from Daytona. I’m very excited about this as Sebring is one of my top three racing circuits in the world (alongside the Nordschleife and Dijon). It’s also where Aston Martin Racing took its first win with the DBR9 back in 2005 so I have a lot of good memories.
It’s a very old-school, traditional circuit with a lot of character and to get a car to work around there is very tricky due not only to the types of corners the circuit has, but also the bumps. It’s a great place to test the reliability of the car from a drivetrain and chassis point of view as well, purely because it’s such a hard circuit.
The only downside to my Sebring call-up is that I’ll miss out on the 73rd Members Meeting at Goodwood. I was really looking forward to getting my little Turner out! Just like the Vantage GTE, my MK1 Turner has had some winter upgrades so it would have been good to see if those had improved performance [We’re expecting another six seconds a lap! Ed]. I was also going to race with David Clark in his Camaro but maybe there will be an opportunity again, some time in future. I love the events at Goodwood. It’s a lot of fun on track, but also a very relaxed paddock and a great chance to get up close and personal with some amazing cars from yesteryear. I’ll have to wait for the Revival now for my classic racing fix.
My cunning plan to get fit for the start of the season and raise some money for the Born Free Foundation by running the London Marathon has hit the skids as an old injury has reappeared so I can’t do enough pavement pounding. I’ve come up with a genius alternative, though. Later in the summer I plan to try and ride 500kms in 24 hours. In theory I should be able to do it, but we’ll have to wait to see if my calculations are correct and my willpower is indeed as strong as it needs to be. It could quite possibly be the last bike ride I do!
You can’t have failed to notice Nissan’s LMP1 beast, which has just been released. It’s great to see another manufacturer joining the LMP1 battle. It feels like we are now in a real golden era of sports car racing and that’s really exciting. Like most people I’m intrigued to see how this new concept works. You have to say that Ben Bowlby’s Deltawing was very much ‘outside the box’ so its no surprise that the Nissan is different to the other P1 cars. I look forward to seeing the new car up close on the track at Silverstone in April. But not too close!