While it won’t be among the new GTE cars making their competition debuts later this month in Daytona, Aston Martin’s 2016-spec Vantage has received high praise from Darren Turner, who is targeting a rebound in fortunes in this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Englishman has been among Aston Martin Racing’s factory drivers that have tested the upgraded Vantage, which primarily features aero developments to conform to the new-for-2016 GTE regulations, that also allows for an increase in power.
“We stayed on after Bahrain and the car ran there,” Turner told Sportscar365. “Jonny Adam and Marco Sorensen carried on with that. I did a few laps just to get an eye of what the car is like at this stage.
“The early signs are that it’s promising. The numbers they were hoping have been achieved and now it’s a case of dialing it in.
“Obviously as you get to the end of one car’s development, which the 2015-spec is very much at the end of its development, there’s not much more space to go, it should be as quick as it goes.
“Then you start with a new program and if you can start off in equal position, if not slightly better, then you know you’ve got something that’s going to be good.
“I think everyone is very pleased with where the car is right now.”
Turner said he sees the biggest strengths coming in efficiency, with all-new bodywork and a GT1-esq splitter and diffuser package allowing more room for development with the overall car, which largely retains the same mechanical components from the previous-generation model.
“The guys with the CFD have focused on reducing the drag and trying to get more fuel efficiency with that,” he said. “That’s the main aim with the car and I think they’re pleased with what they’ve achieved so far.
“But it’s such at an early part of its development that we need to keep pushing and finding those little bits. There’s always a little tenth here or there but it adds up as the years go on.
“All that stuff we’ve learned over the last couple of years with the 2015-spec car will really help us as we go forward with the 2016 car.”
With its primary focus on the WEC, with a yet-to-be-determined number of cars in GTE-Pro and GTE-Am, the new-spec Aston will not likely make its race debut until the season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone in April.
A week-long test is again scheduled for February in Spain, something Turner feels will be more beneficial than running a race such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona or Twelve Hours of Sebring with the car.
“The focus is WEC so we have to make sure we do as much testing in Europe as we can to get the most out of the car,” Turner said. “Going off for a race is great, if you can do it, but at some point you have to decide the main purpose.
“A lot of the running gear is proven, anyway, with what we’ve run for the last couple of years, so I think we’ll learn more from the test days and fine-tuning what we’ve got than trying to go wheel-to-wheel with everyone else.”
Turner, meanwhile, is looking forward to putting 2015 behind him, after what could be considered one of his most difficult seasons as a driver, after only recording a single podium finish in WEC, coning at the season finale with Adam.
Balance of Performance issues, along with other challenges, hampered the No. 97 Aston’s title bid, with the Englishman looking forward to what 2016 could bring, including the arrival of new competition to the GTE-Pro class.
“There was a lot that went on [in 2015],” Turner said. “Personally, in the No. 97 car, we didn’t have a good year at all for various reasons.
“It will be nice to put 2015 to bed. I’m already excited about going to Silverstone.
“In reality, my mind is already thinking about how we’re going to keep up with the Ferraris and challenge those guys next year, and with Ford coming along.
“There’s no point in going racing without competition because it’s pretty dull at that point. You need really strong competition and WEC has always provided that with the fight with Porsche and Ferrari over all these years, which has been fantastic and very close.
“Ford coming along is just going to add to that mix as well. OK, Porsche have scaled it back but they’re still running one car and they’re not going to have it be out there to just make up the numbers. They’re going to be pushing.
“From that side, it’s really encouraging the grid has another manufacturer and it just shows the depth of field WEC’s got right now and the popularity of the championship that it’s attracting more and more manufacturers to it.”