Darren Turner: Going for gold at the '09 LMP1 Games
Darren Turner could very well be the poster boy for anyone aspiring to make a career as a racing driver. The school time spit and polish through the ranks of F1 testing with McLaren, the frequent flyer miles rolled up here and there, winning Sebring and of course, GT1 at La Sarthe. Turner has arrived and is ready for the big challenge of taking on the pride of the French and German manufacturers at Le Mans, Peugeot and Audi.
EC: It's a long way from 1992 and the Jim Russell School to LMP1 at La Sarthe. Many go through the process, few make it to the real world of motorsport. Any reflections on the journey?
DT: It's been an amazing adventure and I'm proud to have been able to turn a dream into a reality. There have been plenty of highs and lows along the way. I look back and think of it all as good experience. For me, winning the McLaren BRDC Autosport Young Driver of the Year in 1996 was the turning point as it introduced me to McLaren, and from there I turned professional.
EC: Most of your on-track battles have been in GT variants or touring cars, aside from the limited Daytona DP runs in Grand Am. The Aston LMP1 will be a departure as it is a true prototype. How much of an adjustment is this in real time, sharing the track with the types of cars you were previously driving? Now there will be traffic.
DT: All my sports car running has been in the GT classes and you do spend a large amount of time looking in your mirror, especially in GT2. Now that I've got a few laps under my belt in the LMP1 I've been really surprised how quickly you come upon the slower cars. I think my experience from the GT2 and GT1 classes has really helped me to better understand that the GT drivers are just as on the limit as the LMP1 drivers.
EC: Guy Smith spoke of the emotions of being a Brit in the winning Bentley at Le Mans. Do you share similar sentiments about being part of a British effort to win on the 50th anniversary of something that meant so much to David Brown and Aston Martin ?
DT: The main thing for me is being a British driver in an Aston Martin. It's a privilege to be a part of the team. I guess if you are an Italian driver you grow up wanting to drive for Ferrari. For a British driver the same can be said about Aston Martin. To be honest I'm not really thinking about the 50th anniversary right now; I'm just getting used to the new car and looking forward to the whole season--the highlight of which will be Le Mans.
EC: Describe a lap around Paul Ricard at speed in the LMP1 compared to a flyer of a lap in the DBR9. What are the major differences?
DT: The DBR9 has been my home for the last five years. Every time I strap myself in it feels right, completely natural. I don't feel at one with the new car just yet but I'm working on it. I need to improve the seating position, especially because of the increased g-forces I'm experiencing in the LMP1 car, it is much more important to be completely comfortable in the seat. Visibility is also completely different; you can see less in the LMP1 and you feel enclosed by the wheel arches. Acceleration is marginally better than the DBR9 but you get used to it very quickly. The biggest differences are the medium- and high-speed cornering abilities. The LMP1 feels incredible. The most impressive corner is at the end of the back straight; in the GT1 it's brake and shift down one gear, in the LMP1 it's sixth gear, a small throttle lift, and then back on the power.
EC: What has been the program for you to maintain your physical fitness? Audi sends its squad to camp for a workout and the budget for that would run a small team for a season. Does GHC have a structure in place for the drivers?