Darren Turner believes the largely production-based Aston Martin Vantage GT8 could fight for a top 20 overall finish in this weekend’s Nürburgring 24.
The longtime Aston Martin factory driver returns to the Nordschleife alongside reigning FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Pro champion Nicki Thiim, as well as Peter Cate and Markus Lungstrass in the SP8 class entry for its second attempt in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
While no fewer than 34 GT3-spec cars are set to do battle for overall honors in the SP9 class, attrition and the outright pace of the 4.7-liter V8-powered Vantage, inspired from the British manufacturer’s GTE contender, could put it in the mix amongst the more powerful GT cars, according to Turner.
“If you look at the pace, we’re like 40 seconds a lap slower than GT3,” he told Sportscar365. “But there’s generally a lot of attrition with GT3, and many people throughout the race.
“Maybe if we can have a really good, clean race throughout, and have good pace, as in maximizing our pace throughout the race, then there’s a chance of maybe breaking into the top-20 at the end of the race.
“It’s certainly a target the guys are talking about and I think it would be a huge challenge to do this, but it’s something we should be aiming for.”
Turner was part of last year’s lineup in the Vantage GT8, which was leading its class in dominant fashion until Cate had a race-ending accident with three hours to go during a sudden downpour.
While facing a diverse mix of competitors in the class, including a Ford Mustang GT, Lexus RCF and Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo, Turner, who took part in February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour also in a Vantage GT8, said the focus will be on running their own race and letting the results decide itself.
“With the GT8, it’s a production-based car and a lot of fun to drive,” he said. “I really enjoyed it last year.
“I think there’s enough of a gap between where we are and the strongest guys in the class, and there’s guys that are a lot slower as well.
“It’s not generally a wheel-to-wheel race, it’s an attrition race and making sure you maximize every opportunity. Because you can lose a lot of time by not making the most of your fuel.
“This time we need to make sure that make the full 24 hours.”
With Aston Martin electing not to enter a V12 Vantage GT3 in the top class, Turner will be focused solely on the Vantage GT8 effort this year, after pulling double-duty between both cars in 2016.
Turner admitted Nürburgring is one of his favorite races of the year, for its unique challenges.
“I love the Nordscheife,” he said. “Driving in the GT3 car is a pretty special experience. But having said that, I’ve done a couple of races in a GT4 before I got the chance to do GT3.
“It was quite nice as it was all under the radar, you just went around, learned the circuit and got an idea of the competition.
“Going back now and doing it in the GT8, it’s going to be a really nice driving experience because the car isn’t as planted to the ground, because it doesn’t have as much aero. So you’re working as hard, if not harder, behind the wheel. It makes a challenging circuit all the more challenging.
“Also, when you’re in the GT3, you’re pretty much just cutting through traffic, while this is trying to get through [and be mindful of the faster cars]. So the management of traffic is a bit more difficult but also adds to the enjoyment.
“I certainly don’t think we’re the fastest in the class on outright pace but we’re near the front running pace of the competition.
“We need to be optimal with our performance and pace and that’s just to make sure that we’ve got a good chance of getting into the top-20 by the end of the race.”