Darren Turner is European Le Mans Series GTE Champion! The Aston Martin works driver and his Beechdean AMR team mates, Andrew Howard and Alex MacDowall, needed to win the final round of the season at Estoril in Portugal today in order to claim the title and that is precisely what they did.
The ‘4 Hours of Estoril’ was an action-packed and incident-filled race and the weekend didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts when qualifying produced an eighth place grid position for the #99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE.
“We ran on old tyres in the wet in free practice and our pace was good so we were feeling quite confident,” said Turner. “We put a new set of tyres on for qualifying and just couldn’t get the rears to come in. It was very frustrating not to be able to put a lap together and it really put us on the back foot.”
Eighth place in qualifying turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Alex MacDowall was behind the wheel for the start and as chaos reigned in front of him he was able to sit back, evaluate it and then blast through the field. He made great progress during the opening stint and when the championship-leading JMW Ferrari hit trouble the Aston Martin took the lead.
The JMW Ferrari needed to finish in seventh place or higher to take the championship title. The Beechdean Aston Martin needed to win and for the Ferrari to fail to finish. The stars were aligned for Beechdean today and as the team pressed on, the Ferrari hit - or was hit by - all kinds of trouble.
“Andrew (Howard) jumped in next and drove his strongest stint of the year,” said Turner. “His pace was great and he maintained a healthy lead throughout his run. I then got in, just as the JMW Ferrari was hit by an LMP3 car, which resulted in the Safety Car coming out.
“The restart was chaos as I was surrounded by LMP2 and LMP3 cars, all having their own battles,” he continued. “Our lead was reduced to zero too so I had Rui Aguas’ Ferrari on my tail for a while. Once I got clear of the traffic I was able to pull away and then I think he was hit by an LMP3 car so I just got my head down to build the buffer up again.”
Turner pitted at the end of his stint, handing the Aston Martin over to MacDowell with a healthy lead. He put in another mighty stint and crossed the line, taking the race win and the championship victory!
“That was an unbelievable result,” said Turner. “When you go into the last race of the season 20 points down, you are focusing on keeping the runner up spot in the championship, as it’s so critical when it comes to the 2017 Le Mans entries. To then take the win is a tremendous result and I’m very happy for Andrew Howard and the whole Beechdean AMR team.
“It was been a pleasure to race with these guys this year, especially when you consider that I started the season filling in for Jonny Adam,” concluded Turner. “The guys did a great job all year to prepare the car, which ran faultlessly throughout. That’s how you win championships. Aston Martin Racing can be very proud of the V8 Vantage GTE.”
Source material - Darren Turner PR
Photo credits - Adrenal Media
TF Sport arrived at the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup season finale at Estoril today (22 October, 2016) in a bullish frame of mind, keen to cement their advantage at the head of the Teams’ Championship and take the title honours to add to the British GT title claimed in September.
In a near perfect race, Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey performed flawlessly, capitalising on mistakes made by their rivals to take the victory in the two-hour event and with that, claim the inaugural Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup Teams' Championship and an all-important invitation to Le Mans.
The Aston Martin-supported team started the race weekend with a slender four-point advantage over main rival SMP Racing and with the win, extended this to a title-winning 11
"A fantastic result," declared the delighted TF Sport Director Tom Ferrier. "A few times this year we didn't score the points we could have, but today we did everything we knew we should and could. Both drivers drove brilliantly in what were difficult conditions and the team did a great job to prepare the #34 car well and ensure that we had the tyres to fight all day long.
"We've been on the pace all year long and while in some races a podium was okay, we had to go all out for this one today and yes, we had a bit of a break with the #72 making mistakes, but the point is we forced those mistakes and we were there at the end. A huge congratulations to the team. We're GT3 Le Mans Champions, we're British GT Champions and we have an entry into the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A really great season!"
Qualifying saw Yoluc behind the wheel of the #43 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, making best of the wet and very tricky conditions to qualify in a solid fourth position. The Turkish driver make his now customary quick getaway at the start of the race and settled his race rhythm.
Lap 12 saw a golden opportunity came his way with the race leader - and championship rival - running off track and then subsequently spinning off, dropping down to eighth position and leaving Yoluc clear at the head of the field. While the #72 would fight back, the damage had been done and this paved the way for TF Sport to take the top honour.
Yoluc continued at the front, briefly losing position to the #14 Ferrari before handing over to Euan Hankey with 64 minutes remaining and 32 laps complete. Hankey was soon lapping at record pace, extending his advantage to an impressive 38 seconds before the rain returned to the Portuguese circuit with 45 minutes remaining.
The British racer opted to stay out on the slicks and with the #72 Ferrari now back up to second position, the pressure was on. Undeterred, Hankey kept the pace up and continued to extend his advantage at the head of the field and went on to take the chequered flag an impressive 43-seconds ahead of the field and with that, secure the title for TF Sport.
"There's always doubts and I didn't think we'd do it," admitted Hankey. "But we did it and Sal drove brilliantly and we did it, we took the championship."
In the Drivers’ standings Hankey and Yoluc started the weekend 21 points adrift of the SMP pairing and with the victory, closed the gap to just 14 and secured the runner-up position.
Our best wishes go out to TF Sport along with Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey who, tomorrow embark on the biggest race of their driving partnership so far at the final round of the inaugural Michelin GT3 Le Man Cup series at the Portuguese Estoril circuit.
Maintaining a slender lead from the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Alexi Basov and Viktor Shaitar in the Team Championship the duo will have to overcome a twenty point deficit to also have have a shot at the Drivers Championship, meaning that the #34 car virtually has to win again the #72 car low point scoring. The #88 Mentos Porsche also has the potential of snatching the Team Championship.
With all the 10 car entry having already endured changing conditions during todays Free Practice sessions anything can happen!
Photo credit - Adrenal Media
Following last weeks release that Australian based Miedecke Stone Motorsport will be fielding a two Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3 entry into next weekends Hampton Downs 101 event, the team have today confirmed the driver line up of that second car.
Joining the #95 father and son pairing car will be Australian and former V8 racer Tony Longhurst who will race alongside Kiwi and fellow V8 (Super Tourer) driver Richard Moore in the blue, black and white #96 - a very talented pair indeed.
The Racers Group are having a post season clear out of their California garage but its not necessarily what it first appears - so finds out Racer Mag's Marshall Pruett writes HERE
TF Sport is on the verge of claiming its second championship title of a landmark year, as it leads the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup and will throw all of its weight behind its drivers Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey to get the job done at Portugal’s Circuito do Estoril (21-22 October).
The very first Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup Teams’ and Drivers’ Champions will be crowned in Portugal and TF Sport’s energy will be spent on fending off the Russian SMP Racing team, with the #72 Ferrari of Aleksey Basov and Victor Shaitar.
TF Sport made history by winning the inaugural GT3 Le Mans Cup race at Imola in May and the official Aston Martin Racing Partner Team has featured on the podium in all-but-one round to date, the exception being the headlining 24 Hours of Le Mans support event.
Twelve points separate TF Sport in first, SMP Racing in second and third-placed Mentos Racing with one round remaining, after Hankey and Yoluc raced to a hard-earned podium in the series’ visit to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in September.
There are countless possible permutations, particularly in the Teams’ title battle, but the British outfit simply needs to focus on finishing ahead of its Ferrari and Porsche rivals at Estoril, where 26 points are up for grabs in qualifying and the single two-hour race on Saturday (22 October).
TF Sport Director, Tom Ferrier, said: “I think we have to do what we’ve always done and look at it in the same way as the British GT finale by making sure we have a mistake-free race at the front. We’ve been close to the front in every round so far and our pace was good in testing at Estoril. so we can realistically expect to be up there.
“Circuito do Estoril is very hard on tyres and preserving them will be our main focus when setting up the car, which is usually pretty strong in that area. We would all obviously love to end the year on the top step of the podium, but we will understand where we lie in free practice and it will then be about maximising that potential. It’s a fact that we’re some way down the road from where we were at the start of the year.”
Source material - TF Sport
Darren Turner’s Japanese WEC weekend ended in frustration on Sunday when he and his team mate Richie Stanaway had to settle for sixth place in the ‘6 Hours of Fuji’. Despite this result Turner retains third place in the GTE driver’s championship standings.
For Saturday’s qualifying session the team made a strategy call to save a set of tyres for the race, which meant that only one set was used in qualifying. Turner and Stanaway would line up in sixth place for the race but with an extra set of fresh rubber in hand.
Stanaway started the race and although he moved up to fourth place immediately, by the end of lap two he was back in sixth place again.
“There was a balance of performance adjustment before the weekend on both the engine restrictor size and the aerodynamics of the Aston Martin which undoubtedly had an effect on our performance,” said Turner. “We maximised everything we could and ran a faultless race but we weren’t on the pace of the competition this time.”
Turner’s first stint was a difficult one and he found himself struggling with the balance of the car so it felt like a very long 39 laps! Fortunately his second stint was a lot better.
“I was relieved when I jumped back in for my second stint as the car was handling the way it had done in the practice sessions so there were fewer surprises!” said Turner. “Aside from a little bit of contact with the #50 car it was an enjoyable and trouble-free run.”
After six hours of racing the two Pro Aston Martins that had started the race in fifth and sixth places, finished it in fifth and sixth!
“It was definitely one of the more processional WEC races,” said Turner. “We didn’t have the form that we have showed in the last few races so hopefully when we get to China we will be in with a fighting chance.”
Turner now heads to Estoril in Portugal where he and the Beechdean AMR team still have a shot at the European Le Mans Series title.
This weekend Beechdean Aston Martin Racing (AMR) will compete in the final round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series (ELMS). The Series will head to the south of Portugal, where the final race will take place on the tight and twisty circuit of Autodromo do Estroril.
This will be the third year running that Autodromo do Estoril will host the championship finale. Estoril is situated thirty minutes’ drive away from from the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. The 2.599 mile circuit presents a unique challenge to drivers and teams. In last year’s race, high crosswinds and varied weather conditions added to the spice of the finale. With this in mind, teams will need to be prepared for all eventualities during the four hour race.
The 2016 European Le Mans Series has been close all season, with the leading teams constantly fighting it out on the track. The GTE title is still to be decided at the finale, however JMW hold a significant lead as the final race draws closer. The Beechdean AMR drivers; Andrew Howard, Darren Turner and Alex MacDowall have an outside chance of taking the ELMS title. However with a 20 point deficit and only 26 points available, luck will play a big part. Realistically the #99 crew will look to consolidate on their second position in the championship, with a 12 point gap to third.
“It’s been a great debut season for the team. To be in with a chance of winning the championship - even if it is a slim one - is more than we would have dared hoped for, especially given the class field of competitors” stated Howard. “However we have to be practical. Realistically we have a good chance of coming second, which will be our main priority. Overall, it had been a great season and we are pleased with what we have achieved in our first full year.”
Aston Martin Racing veteran Turner commented on the upcoming race, saying, “We have everything to play for in Estoril. Although we need a lot of luck to go our way to clinch the championship. It's been a good season and would be great to finish the season like we started with a win.”
“It is great to be fighting for the number one spot in the championship, even if our chances are extremely slim. We have had a promising season so far and have scored points at every round.” Commented MacDowell “Hopefully we can improve on last year’s result, and finish the season in style. We will go with the plan to fight, but our ultimate goal is to finish and secure second.”
Beechdean AMR are looking forward to an action packed weekend and are hopeful that Estoril will be able to produce a fitting finale to what has been an enthralling ELMS season.
Young Driver AMR has maintained its lead in the GTE Pro class drivers and teams championship of the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). At the 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan, the seventh of nine rounds of the world championship, Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim finished fifth in the Aston Martin Racing entered #95 Young Driver AMR-Aston Martin Vantage V8. With two rounds to go in China and Bahrain in November, Sørensen/Thiim lead the championship by a margin of ten points.
After three consecutives pole positions, Sørensen/Thiim started fifth into the seventh round of the season. During the race, which turned out not to be the most exiting one of the season in the GTE Pro class, the two Danes dove their own race and finally finished fifth, one lap behind a pair of Fords and Ferrari after six uneventful hours.
"Fifth position was the maximum we could archive today“, Young Driver AMR´s Jan Struve said after the race. "Ford und Ferrari were too fast today and since we are leading the championship, we have to focus on this. At this stage of the season it’s important to bring the car to the finish and score points. This is what we did today. Neither the drivers, nor the team did a mistake today. We clearly didn’t had the pace to challenge Ford or Ferrari in this race, but are now looking forward to the next round in Shanghai in China in three weeks.”
The penultimate round of the 2016 FIA WEC will take place in China on 6 November. Young Driver AMR leads the GTE Pro drivers and teams championship with a margin of ten points.
Result 6 Hours of Fuji
1. Priaulx/Tincknell (Ford GT)
2. Pla/Mücke (Ford GT)
3. Rigon/Bird (Ferrari 488)
4. Bruni/Calado (Ferrari 488)
5. Sørensen/Thiim (Aston Martin Vantage V8)
6. Turner/Stanaway (Aston Martin Vantage V8)
GTE Pro drivers championship
1. Sørensen/Thiim Aston Martin 119 points
2. Bird/Rigon Ferrari 104
3. Turner Aston Martin 103
4. Bruni/Calado Ferrari 95
5. Play/Mücke Ford 92
GTE Pro teams championship
1. Young Driver AMR Aston Martin 119 points
2. AF Corse Ferrari 103
3. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing (#66) Ford 103
4. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing (#67) Ford 103
Source material - Young Driver AMR