he­roes

LINCH­PIN OF AS­TON MARTIN RACING AND THREE-TIMES A LE MANS CLASS WIN­NER

VANTAGE - - Contents - Words richard meaden pho­tog­ra­phy as­ton martin racing

Three class wins at Le Mans makes Dar­ren Turner a hero in our book

It’s cus­tom­ary for this page to cel­e­brate a hero from As­ton Martin’s long and sto­ried past. Well, in this edi­tion we’ve de­cided to cham­pion a man who is very much part of the mar­que’s present: As­ton Martin Racing’s long­est-serv­ing driver, Dar­ren Turner.

Turner has been a fix­ture at AMR since the team’s for­ma­tion back in 2005. It’s a re­mark­able part­ner­ship, es­pe­cially in a sport that’s known to be mer­ci­lessly cut­throat. It’s also tes­ta­ment to his undi­min­ished pace that he re­mains one of the front­line driv­ers in the hugely com­pet­i­tive World En­durance Cham­pi­onship. And it’s a re­flec­tion of his loy­alty that he has stayed put through the good times and the bad.

In­deed it’s im­pos­si­ble to over­state the 43-year-old Brit’s con­tri­bu­tion to As­ton Martin Racing, for he has played in in­te­gral role in the de­vel­op­ment of ev­ery As­ton Martin race car since the DBR9. That con­ti­nu­ity is rare in the tran­sient world of pro­fes­sional mo­tor racing, but it’s some­thing both team and driver rel­ish.

The good times came quickly, with a win on the DBR9’S de­but at the no­to­ri­ously pun­ish­ing Se­bring 12 Hours in 2005. Le Mans proved a tougher nut to crack, but af­ter two years of frus­tra­tion AMR (and Turner) en­joyed back-to­back class wins in 2007 and 2008. No won­der he de­scribes the DBR9 as his ‘lot­tery win’ car.

There have been bad times, too. The worst, ac­tu­ally, when Al­lan Si­mon­sen lost his life in a vi­o­lent ac­ci­dent in the open­ing laps of the 2013 Le Mans. The AMR squad’s four re­main­ing cars raced on at the be­hest of the Si­mon­sen fam­ily, with the #97 car of Turner, Ste­fan Mücke and Peter Dum­breck claim­ing a gritty third place.

DT’S hat-trick of Le Mans class wins came last year in what is ac­knowl­edged to be one of the most fiercely con­tested GTE class bat­tles in the race’s his­tory. Turner him­self reck­ons it to be the tough­est – and most sat­is­fy­ing – of the three.

That in­ner steel when he’s be­hind the wheel is in sharp con­trast to his happy-go-lucky de­meanour out of the car. Not only a driver with a wide breadth of racing ex­pe­ri­ence – he won the pres­ti­gious Mclaren Au­tosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award in 1996, served as Mclaren F1 test driver then forged a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the BTCC and DTM be­fore mak­ing the switch to sportscars – he also has a keen ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the his­tory of the sport.

A reg­u­lar com­peti­tor at the Good­wood Mem­bers’ Meet­ing and Re­vival, the ver­sa­til­ity he demon­strated in the ear­lier phases of his ca­reer are clear to see. Show him a Mini Cooper S, AC Co­bra or DB4 GT and he’ll drive the wheels off it, usu­ally emerg­ing from the cock­pit with a beam­ing smile to pro­nounce it ‘Mega!’.

As with all pro racing driv­ers, speed is lit­er­ally the essence of Turner’s ca­reer. This year marks his 13th sea­son with AMR, and it’s go­ing to be a busy one, as he’s com­bin­ing an­other full WEC cam­paign in the new Van­tage GTE with a re­turn to the Bri­tish GT Cham­pi­onship along­side long-time AMR cus­tomer driver and for­mer Bri­tish GT and Euro­pean Le Mans Se­ries cham­pion An­drew Howard. It’s a rare chance for DT’S many Bri­tish fans to see him in ac­tion, and a wel­come op­por­tu­nity for him to race the ven­er­a­ble V12 Van­tage GT3 (in its fi­nal sea­son) on the cir­cuits where he cut his teeth.

Be­yond the racing, Turner is in­creas­ingly in­volved with the test and de­vel­op­ment of As­ton Martin’s road cars. It’s a new phase and a fresh chal­lenge, but one he’s well suited to. It’s also the first ev­i­dence of a role at As­ton that will ex­tend be­yond his ca­reer as a fac­tory racing driver. That’s great news, for such is the close­ness of the re­la­tion­ship it’s hard to imag­ine one with­out the other.

V

Above and left Turner in re­flec­tive mood, and left, the mo­ment As­ton clinched the GTE class win at Le Mans in 2017, the third for both AMR and Turner him­self

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