FEA­TURES LE MANS 2017

It was a race to re­mem­ber for As­ton Martin. Re­live it through th­ese pages

VANTAGE - - Contents - WORDS RICHARD MEADEN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY NICK DUN­GAN/DREW GIB­SON

There’s some­thing ironic about how the very best Le Mans 24 Hour races al­ways come down to a bare-knuckle fight in the last few des­per­ate min­utes. This year was no ex­cep­tion, with As­ton Martin Rac­ing’s Van­tage #97 slug­ging it out against the lead­ing Corvette in the dy­ing mo­ments of the race for the big­gest prize in GT rac­ing.

For Dar­ren Turner, one third of car #97’s driver line-up and good friend of Van­tage, it was a mix of emo­tions few have felt, but feel­ings he was happy to share when we called to re­flect on the epic win – his and AMR’S hat-trick in Le Mans’ top GT class. This, then, is how it feels to win Le Mans:

‘With two hours to go, I knew I wasn’t go­ing to be in the car for the fin­ish, so I was al­ready re­lax­ing and en­joy­ing the race as a spec­ta­tor, al­beit from the back of our garage. We thought we’d be ten sec­onds be­hind the Corvette at the fi­nal pit stop, but the two cars came in as one. Right then I thought: “This is it. Game on!” Corvette de­cided to change driv­ers, which puts huge pres­sure on the new driver when they’re in cold and lead­ing. They had it all to lose, while Jonny [Adam] – who stayed in the car and was to­tally di­alled in to it and the track – had ev­ery­thing to gain.

‘When he tried for an over­take at Mul­sanne Cor­ner I thought, “Fair play Jonny, at least you had a go”, but I didn’t think there was enough time left to close the gap and make an­other move. Less than a lap later, he’d pres­sured the ’Vette into a mis­take and the whole race changed...

‘When the ’Vette skipped the chi­cane, our en­gi­neers and man­age­ment saw it had gained an ad­van­tage. We were all scream­ing to get a mes­sage to the race di­rec­tor. But by the time the mes­sage was sent, the Corvette clearly had a punc­ture and Jonny had got by. We could hear the cheers of the crowd in the grand­stand op­po­site over the noise of the race!

‘All the mar­ques in GTE Pro had led. All had good op­por­tu­ni­ties to win it. To come out of that bat­tle ahead, and es­pe­cially ahead of Corvette – our old­est ad­ver­sary and the team we share such mu­tual re­spect with – was some­thing ex­tremely spe­cial. What an end to a 24-hour race!

‘Of my three Le Mans wins, this is the most spe­cial for me. The com­pe­ti­tion in ‘07 and ‘08 wasn’t as strong. This year it’s been five man­u­fac­tur­ers all bat­tling it out tooth-and­nail, all race long, with one of the best last hours in the his­tory of the race. I’m chuffed to win with Jonny and Daniel [Serra], and that the Van­tage GTE has fi­nally won in GTE Pro. It’s nice to get a farewell win for the car. The whole AMR team de­served it, es­pe­cially Dan Say­ers, who mas­ter­minded the car.

‘The podium at Le Mans is to­tally dif­fer­ent to any other. You can see the whole pit­lane, the whole team, all the fans. It’s a great place tobe.nor­mally,by­thetues­day­or­wednes­day af­ter a race, you’re over it and think­ing about the next one. With Le Mans, you’re still on a high weeks later. Ac­tu­ally, it’s mid-au­gust now and I’m still buzzing!’

So are we, DT. So are we.

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