DARREN Turner narrowly missed out on the chance to stand on Silverstone’s podium after another strong, yet ultimately unrewarded performance in his home round of the International GT Open series.
The works Aston Martin Racing driver had looked set to follow up his GTE Am-class second place in the previous weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship encounter, by finishing third in the Optimum Motorsport-run Vantage GT3 he shares with BRDC Rising Star Ollie Wilkinson in GT Open.
That is until his team-mate was taken out by a rash rival on the final lap of race two.
Optimum went in to the weekend with a measured approach, aiming to build on a positive Balance of Performance (BOP) change and manage the 15-second success penalty it received thanks to its win at the Red Bull Ring.
Turner and Wilkinson qualified seventh for race one and the youngster, who started the race, was fighting for position on the opening lap when heavy contact caused enough damage to render their race little more than a test session.
“Ollie had to avoid someone going into Becketts and picked up dirt on his tyres,” said Turner.
“Then at Stowe there was some contact, which was one of those things and no big deal.
“But unfortunately a third guy ploughed into the back of Ollie and took the rear wing off the car and damaged some other pieces.”
The team did a fantastic job to rally itself and ready the car for Sunday’s hour-long race.
Especially since, after Turner and Wilkinson qualified sixth in the morning for race two, the team discovered that the Aston Martin required a replacement subframe before Darren could start the race later in the day.
“This was my second race weekend with Optimum, but I have also done a bit of testing with them,” said Turner.
“I really like this team. They are sharp, efficient and organised with some good experienced people in key roles. They are doing a very good job.
“The car felt good all weekend we just haven’t had that much pace, and that is probably a reflection on where the BOP is at this moment.
“Racing cars are seldom perfect, but it was pretty damn good and there weren’t any (handling) issues at all.”
Having missed out on race mileage on Saturday, Turner was keen to play himself in to the car’s full-tank and cold Michelin-tyre characteristics.
“It took me a couple more laps than expected to get the front tyres in, but we settled down into sixth and were keeping with the pack,” he said.
“That surprised me, because initially our difference in qualifying to pole was about a second, so I was quite happy that we were there or thereabouts.
“I pitted from fifth to hand over to Ollie feeling really happy with my stint, because the pace was good and I had been consistent.
“Ollie then jumped in and straight away did a good job. If someone had said after Q1 we’d be in fifth we would have been satisfied because we didn’t have the overall pace, so it was going to be a good result.”
But as the laps counted down it became clear that even more was on offer.
Optimum’s careful planning and the drivers’ sensible fuel management meant that they were able to push on the last lap while two of the cars in front ran short of fuel.
Coming in to The Loop for the final time, Wilkinson went to go around the outside of one of those cars when both were harpooned by an over-enthusiastic rival.
“Ollie was going to put us on the podium when the guy that had been behind him throughout his stint went for a crazy move that wiped out three cars,” said Turner.
“Ollie got going quickly to the flag, but we dropped to seventh.
“You have to take opportunities when they come. Sometimes you are robbed of chances, and this time we were going to benefit from someone else’s misfortune until we were robbed ourselves!
“To miss out on a strong podium opportunity capped a frustrating weekend, but we can draw strength from the fact that even though we were on the back-foot we were able to put ourselves into a competitive position.”
Turner is back in action for the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Fuji Speedway on 10th October.