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