How Turner ended his Goodwood wait
Darren Turner had missed out many times before getting behind the wheel of a rare Aston Martin that hadn’t always had the luck…
Factory Aston Martin driver Darren Turner has been an enthusiastic Goodwood regular for many years, but until 2018 success had eluded him. That changed at September’s Revival meeting when he scored an unlikely victory in a famous car that hadn’t even made it to the most important event it had been built for.
As with many racing stories, the combination came together by chance. “I was on an event with the new Aston Martin DB4 GT Continuation car and after that one of the owners contacted me and said a friend had the DB2 at the Revival,” explains Turner, who had owned a DB2 road car but had to sell it before ever getting to restore and drive it. “They asked if I’d like to drive. It was an easy decision to make.
“The DB2 has always been a favourite of mine. Everyone has periods of cars they like and I like the 1950s and ’60s. They’ve got nice curves – more ‘natural’. If I was to build a collection of older cars, it would definitely be in it.”
Predictably for Goodwood, this was no ‘ordinary’ DB2. Registered and known as ‘VMF 65’, chassis LML/50/9 was one of three works cars built for the factory’s 1950 campaign. But on his way to Le Mans, sportscar racer Jack Fairman crashed VMF 65 on the public road, damaging it beyond immediate repair and forcing a non-start. The car was subsequently raced and had some star drivers – including Stirling Moss, George Abecassis and Lance Macklin – and was bought by legendary privateer Rob Walker, but it couldn’t quite match sister machine VMF 64, fifth at Le Mans in ’50 and a remarkable third in ’51. VMF 65 did, however, make Autosport’s cover in March 1951, following a glowing road test by technical editor John Bolster. At some point around this time, its original 2.6-litre straight six was also upgraded to a three-litre engine.
After a stint in the Le Mans museum the car started
competing in historic events in the 1980s before long-term custodians the Leyba family put it up for sale. Current owner Justin Kennedy bought the car in 2010, though – perhaps surprisingly – he was initially less enthusiastic about DB2S than Turner.
“I wasn’t initially attracted to the DB2, but this one intrigued me because it had such an interesting history, with crashing on its way to Le Mans,” says Aston Martin enthusiast Kennedy. “I also wanted a car I could drive in the Mille Miglia and for it to be from the early 1950s.
“A sister car had come up for sale the year before and then VMF 65 came up so I went for it. It’s got a lovely colour scheme and I fell in love with it. Then I drove it and fell in love with it all over again. It’s such a fun car to drive – noisy, hot and it vibrates like crazy. You know you’re really driving.”
The car was pretty much race-ready and, aside from adding a new rollcage and fire extinguisher, Kennedy has left it alone. “I want to preserve it as it is,” confirms Kennedy, who has driven the car on the Mille Miglia and hopes to race it soon.
Pre-production DB2S were campaigned by
Aston Martin in 1949, but this is as close to Genesis as Turner has got when it comes to GT Astons. He tested the car before the Revival and was taken aback by the scale of the operation: “I asked which team ran the car and they said,
‘Tony [Green] will be looking after you at the test’, and it turned up on a trailer behind a Land Rover. That was perfect – much more like it was back in the day. Tony said he worked on Justin’s estate and looked after the lawnmowers! He has deep enthusiasm. I didn’t know if it would be competitive, but that wasn’t the point.”
But the DB2 was competitive. With regular driver Green and Mark Osland running VMF 65, Turner qualified second for the Fordwater Trophy for road-going sports and GT cars from the first half of the 1950s, just 0.123 seconds behind the well-developed Porsche 356 of British Touring Car race winner Sam Tordoff. That was despite leaving the handbrake on, forcing a brake change.
Tordoff stalled at the start of the race and was swamped by the pack, and a brief off by David Franklin’s Ferrari left Turner chasing the biggerengined Jaguar XK120 of Stuart Graham. On lap three Turner went to the outside of the first, right-handed part of St Mary’s, giving him the inside for the left-hander, and took the lead.
“Stuart had told me before the race how exposed he felt in the Jag, so I was very mindful not to get tangled up with him,” says the 44-year old. “I was very, very careful when I made the move. That car was quick on the straight so it took a while to get by, but the Aston was quicker everywhere else.
“It was easy to drive, with a good balance.
One area that surprised me was how good it was on the brakes.” That’s something that hasn’t changed – Bolster praised the brakes in 1951.
Once ahead, Turner looked comfortable, but he kept an eye on the recovering Tordoff, who was storming through the field in the diminutive Porsche, having dropped almost 20s off the lead. “I was watching the big screens around the track so I could see the progress Sam was making,” recalls Turner. “I knew if the race was another 10 minutes he’d have been on my tail.”
As it was, Turner crossed the line still 6.4s ahead of the second-placed Porsche to finally take his first Revival win – and a rare success in historic racing for a DB2.
“I’ve done the Revival for quite a few years so to take my first victory in one of my favourite Aston Martins was quite fitting,” says Turner. “I just wanted to get the [winner’s] cigar, though I haven’t smoked it yet. My only regret was I wanted to speak to
Henry Hope-frost [the late Goodwood interviewer who was killed in a road accident in March 2018] afterwards. There’s something magical about the Revival and the win makes that weekend even more special.”
It was also something of a surprise for Kennedy, who had missed practice stuck in traffic. “I had no expectation or ambitions, other than the car come home in one piece,” he says. “When Darren qualified second I was delighted. I was over the moon when he won.”
Turner now has considerable experience in older racing cars. He appreciates them, but believes they highlight how much the job of the driver has changed through the decades. “I’ve driven a lot of older Astons and you can tell they’re from the same generation, the same design philosophy,” says Turner, who has driven DB3S, DBR1 and Project 212 racers. “There’s nothing about the DB2 that’s like the GTE Vantage. Now the cars are so bulletproof you can push 100% every lap – it’s a sprint. Back then you had to drive in a way to make the cars last. It’s a different mindset.
“The history of racing is ingrained at Aston Martin and as a current driver it’s really nice to experience cars from the start of the story.” And to finally end the long waits that he and VMF 65 had endured.
Turner always enjoys Goodwood weekends
Sister car VMF 64 had more Le Mans success, but VMF 65 did make our cover (inset)
Turner had to work hard to overtake the powerful Jaguar of Stuart Graham
Turner celebrates his first Revival win