Darren Turner is hoping to put what’s been a disappointing season behind him this weekend at Fuji, with revised Balance of Performance potentially putting him back in the running for GTE-Pro class honors.
The factory Aston Martin Racing driver, who just signed a multi-year contract extension with the British manufacturer, surprisingly has yet to score a podium finish this year, following a string of bad luck and misfortunes.
“In particular, the No. 97 car, we haven’t had a particularly good year,” Turner told Sportscar365. “We were running second at Silverstone [and had an issue]; we were leading Spa and had a puncture early in the race.
“At Le Mans, we were fighting in the front and then Rob [Bell] had a small little mistake that damaged the engine, which took us out of contention.
“Nurburgring was really a turning point where it actually got a little worse. We couldn’t really answer it, either. I’ve spent a lot of time with the team. It’s been a very difficult year.”
Turner, who teamed with Stefan Muecke for two class wins and four podium finishes last year, hasn’t been able to pin down the exact issues for the their No. 97 car, which often hasn’t been able to match the performance of the sister No. 99 Aston Martin.
“Even now, I can’t really put a finger on exactly why it’s been so difficult for us in No. 97,” he said. “We thought we’d start this year in a good position.
“We just need to keep working on the numbers and see what we can do in the last three races and end this season in a high, so we can go into next year more upbeat.
“We ended last year winning in Brazil and thought that was going to give us the momentum this year and it’s just not happened.”
While having started the season with his longtime co-driver, Turner is again paired with fellow Brit Jonny Adam this weekend, with Muecke having been moved to the No. 99 car to sub for Richie Stanaway.
The Japanese round also sees another change in the Aston’s BoP, with the V8-powered car getting a 0.2 mm larger air restrictor, following an initial 0.5 mm reduction made post-Le Mans.
“Every race we wanted to be out there winning and we haven’t been able to do that,” he said. “The challenge is still the same and we need to do that in these last remaining races.”
Turner is already looking ahead to next year, with Aston Martin to debut its revised Vantage V8, which features significant new aero updates to conform to the new-for-2016 GTE regulations.
The car recently tested with Stanaway and Adam at Estoril, with the Englishman set to get his first taste of the new-spec Aston later this month at Motorland Aragon.
“I’m looking forward to trying out the new spec, with the extra downforce,” Turner said. “It’s going to be a big step forward with the big diffuser and wing position.
“The rear diffuser looks about the same length we had on the GT1 car. It’s good that it’s going back and we’re going to get a bit more grip. It just adds to the experience.”
Next year’s GTE-Pro class is shaping up to have a significantly different look and feel, something that excites Turner, who has made a name for himself as one of the most capable GT drivers in the world.
“With Ford coming in and possibly Corvette doing some more, it just raises the game in GTE racing,” he said. “The platform has been raised hugely over the years in GT3, with those manufacturers.
“I think, at the moment, GTE or GT3, the whole global platform is fantastic right now. It’s given a lot of drivers some work, which is great, and it’s making for very competitive championships.
“On that side, it’s great to be involved with it, certainly at this level.”