Aston Martin Racing works driver and Grange Ambassador, Darren Turner, became a three-time winner of the world's greatest race when, along with his team-mates Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra, he took GTE Pro class victory in the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The 2017 race was particularly gruelling, with five strong manufacturers in the GTE Pro class and soaring temperatures throughout the 24-hour race.
Already a double Le Mans winner for Aston Martin Racing, in 2007 and 2008, Turner enjoyed the 2017 battle and the resulting victory more than ever before.
“The wins in 2007 and 2008 were big wins for the team, particularly the 2007 win as we had come back with the GT1 car and got through some very tricky conditions at the end, he explained. “Back then though the fight was with Corvette but now it is a very close battle between five extremely competitive manufacturers. There wasn't a single moment during this year's race race where we could ease off a little. All the drivers out there were fighting for every tenth of a second and I mean every car, not just ours. You don't often get that in a 24-hour race.”
This year Le Mans basked in glorious sunshine and the stage was set for a closely-fought GTE Pro fight between five manufacturers all with a fair chance of a Le Mans win.
The race meeting got off to the perfect start when Turner took pole position during Thursday's night qualifying session. Qualifying at Le Mans is run over three sessions on Wednesday and Thursday evening. It was during the final session on Thursday night that Turner made his move and posted a 3:50.837s lap, claiming pole position and a new GTE Pro Le Mans lap record.
Turner said at the time: “The car was perfect and dialled in completely and while there's been a lot of track evolution over the past two days, the team have done a great job to keep on top of it. I'm really pleased for everyone at Aston Martin Racing. It's a great start but there's a long way to go from now to convert this into victory”.
Once the race got underway on Saturday afternoon the crew of the #97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE made no mistakes. They drove a clean race with good pace and slick work in the pit stops from the Aston Martin Racing team.
“This is Daniel's first time at Le Mans and from the moment he hit the track during the Test Day he has been on it,” said Turner. “This is Jonny's second year so he's feeling very comfortable and it's my 15th year so I really should know where I'm going!
The positions were flipping around throughout the race with each manufacturer taking its turn in the lead. Once ‘slow zones' become part of the race there will always be someone out of sync in terms of pit stops so it can often be hard to work out exactly how a race will play out.
“With about an hour to go the team told me it was between us and Corvette and that Corvette would probably have the advantage,” he said. “We followed Corvette in for the final pit stop with a view to giving Jonny the best chance of being on his tail during those final 45 minutes.
“I have to say that Jonny's stint at the end was probably the best driving I have ever seen,” said Turner. “To keep putting the pressure on the Corvette driver, Jordan Taylor, and to keep pushing like that after 23 and a half hours of racing and to finally push him into making a mistake that would cost them the race is impressive. I've not seen many guys do that job.”
Adam actually pulled the #97 V8 Vantage past the Corvette as they crossed the line to start the final lap of the race.
“It's an amazing result,” said Turner. “Aston Martin Racing, Dunlop, Total, and all of the technical partners brought their best game to this weekend and I'm very proud to be part of this team.”