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…

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - KEVIN TURNER

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

J BLOXHAM/LAT

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

J BLOXHAM/LAT

Turner cel­e­brates his first Re­vival win

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