Turner ends season on a high with Sebring podium

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Darren Turner at the Sebring 12 Hours. Photo: Drew Gibson / Aston Martin Racing

MOTORSPORT

DARREN TURNER ended his 2020 racing season in the same style as he began it by celebrating podium success in America.

The Aston Martin Racing works driver finished second in the GTD class of the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday, alongside Heart of Racing team-mates Ian James and Roman DeAngelis.

Like so many of this year’s famous endurance events, the Sebring 12 Hours was moved from its traditional spring-break date in March to a mid-November weekend because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the date change also meant that Stratford racer Turner was able to make his ninth visit to the legendary track near Florida and take his eighth start in an event he recorded a class win at back in 2005.

He has now finished on the podium a further five times there.

Having qualified P11 in the highly-competitive GTD class for GT3 specification machinery, the Aston Martin Vantage crew made rapid progress in the early stages of the event with James taking the start.

“We had good race pace right from the beginning,” said Turner.

“It’s rare that you get to race a car that is perfectly balanced, but I have to say this Vantage got better and better all weekend, and as the track rubbered in the car came in to its own.”

By the time the team regular handed over the car to Turner for his first stint it was sitting in seventh place.

He then set about putting on a charge and fought his way up into the top three, which turned into the GTD class lead when two competitors in front of him crashed out at the same corner.

“I really enjoyed this race,” said Turner, “I was able to really push in each stint.

“It was nice to take the lead at that point in the race after I had made a couple moves to get us up into the leading pack.

“Once up there, we stayed in that group for the first half of the race.”

Unfortunately, not long after that an issue caused a long refuelling stop when Turner was in the pits and dropped the car back down to P8.

Once again Turner and his team-mates fought their way back through the field into the top group.

“Roman was running in the top four when there was another full course yellow with 20 minutes to go,” said Turner.

“At the restart there was all sorts of chaos and he picked up some places and he was even challenging for the lead, it was tremendous. In the end we finished second.”

It crowned a successful, if strange season for Turner that saw him record podium finishes in the FIA World Endurance Championship for the works team at COTA (US), the Nürburgring 24 Hours with Garage 59 and now in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship with The Heart of Racing.

“It was a really good way to finish the season, and for me personally it was fantastic to have another good result at Sebring,” said Turner. “I am just really happy for everyone.

“It’s been a strange season. We started the year on the podium out in COTA and then Covid-19 came along and completely interrupted everyone’s plans.

“But it did give me this wonderful opportunity to finish the season with three races in IMSA, thanks to The Heart of Racing.

“I’ve really enjoyed racing with Roman and Ian, and the team has been fantastic.”