Q & A with Darren Turner

Q. How do you feel about racing an LMP1 at Le Mans?

Q & A with Darren Turner

Darren Turner: I'm just looking forward to it. It has been a very good experience over the last six years with the GT1 car and having two wins has been the icing on the cake. But this is like a whole new chapter for me.

Q. Does it feel like you are doing it for the first time?

DT: No. This time I feel so relaxed. I know we are racing in LMP1 and we are up against Audi and Peugeot, but when we came here with the DBR9, we came to win. And if we didn't win it was big pressure. Here we are massively the underdogs and the main battle for the win is between the diesels, and we are just hoping for a bit of luck to run our way.

If we get in the top six that would be fantastic, if we could sniff the podium that would be unbelieveable and a win would be like a miracle. Because of that, there isn't the pressure and I feel so much more relaxed this year than I have for the last two years.

Q. [Anthony] Davidson believes you could get a podium if you run without problems. Would you agree with that?

DT: I think that's little Ant being a but naïve about Le Mans [laughs] - for someone who has only done half a 24 Hours! There are nine diesels, I think we have the legs on the two R10s but that still leaves seven. So if they all run clean, as the professional teams they are, they should, then our best even if we run clean is eighth. So we have still got to get five of them to have problems and us run with absolutely no problems at all.

I don't know if that's achieveable because we have done our 30-hour test and we had problems there. So far this week it's been good, the running we've had, we haven't really had any technical problems, so maybe we're looking reasonable for the race. There was a slight clutch problem but last night was the first time we've had dry running with the new clutch system. We're still learning about it but that's solvable.

But to think that if we run cleanly, that's going to guarantee us a podium... we need people to have more problems than just us running cleanly beacuse if they run cleanly then no, we're not going to be there.

Q. Were you surprised by the pace of the Astons in qualifying?

DT: Last year they did 3m25s and this year it's 3m27s but both Anthony and Stefan didn't get a clean lap - but every driver down the pitlane is probably saying they didn't get a clean lap, so you have to take it that that's where we're at. The deficit to the Peugeots has closed but there is still a gap.

The other side is that the two biggest teams here are Audi and Peugeot, so if you look at where they should be with just pure car development, not thinking about power, they should be ahead as well. So some of the gap is the configuration of running the diesel and you'd be naive to think there isn't something in the cars as well because big teams like that aren't going to roll out bad chassis and just hope the engines do the job.

Q. Do you think you might have an advantage in being able to make the tyres last a bit longer?

DT: I think what's changed is the regulations in the pitstop. Now that it's two mechanics per car, the time taken to change tyres has doubled so it's worth losing a bit of track performance to gain it back in the pits. We're trying to go for quadruple stints to make the most of our tyres and minimise the changes, so we'll come in, fuel and go, and maybe gain something back in the pits. But I can't imagine the other two teams aren't thinking the same thing.

We know we can do three because that's what we've done on a set of tyres. But we don't know we can do four because we just haven't had the time to try it, with only four hours on Thursday. Losing the time on Wednesday cost us. It was wet and the same for everyone, but we did our housekeeping. We got Anthony's 10 laps out the way, me and Jos did our three laps in the dark, went through all the stuff that needs to be ticked off before the race. But we weren't gathering data on slick tyres.

Q. How is the driver line-up gelling as a crew?

DT: Mega. We're just constantly taking the piss out of each other, and that's good. There's a lot of laughter but we're also very focused on what we're doing.

Q. Do you have similar styles?

DT: Both Ant and Jos are left-foot brakers and I've never adapted to it. Actually, for sportscar racing there doesn't seem to be a performance difference. In my favour, I'm better on fuel than the other two because there's a slight crossover under braking with the left foot. Anthony is slightly better than Jos in that area, and that's really the only difference

We all have the same opinions on the balance of the car, which is the most important thing. Everyone agrees that we've got understeer here and oversteer here, we're ticking the boxes the same.

I'm driving with Michael Krumm in the Nissan this year and he's a left-foot braker and he has a big offset between the pedals. The car has an adjuster to bring them level for me but that means extra weight and complexity that the car doesn't need. Here we've got all the pedals lined up the same. It feels fine, it's a little bit close for me, because of Anthony I think, but it is what it is, you just have to live with it. I get a bit of pins and needles in my left leg and Anthony and Jos have their own little issues as well.

It's funny because Ant is used to Formula 1 where everything is tailored to milimetres to each specific driver and he grizzles a little bit this week [laughs]. He's so used to having everything so precise and this is not - that's the beauty of it.

It's like the traffic, you can't see it is a negative you've got to make it work - it's an opportunity to make up any performance you haven't got in the car if you can get through it quicker than the next guy. You can lose six seconds a lap in traffic if you really get caught up. The gentlemen GT drivers aren't too bad because the difference in speed means you can nip by. The most difficult to pass is the gentlemen LMP2 drivers because they've got some cornering ability. But I like the fact that there's loads of different cars and drivers, it keeps you on your toes all the way through.

Q. Having raced in the GT class recently, how does it feel to be an LMP1 driver at Le Mans?

DT: It does feel great. The coverage the other classes get is not representative of their importance to the whole race weekend. So when you're in GT1 or GT2 the TV is always on LMP1 and there are some proper battles going on, and brilliant drivers who are equally as good as the guys in LMP1. The classes are each as competitive as the main one.

For me it's nice to have another experience. That's the way I look at it, it's a new experience, a different car, I've got to learn new techniques. I was saying to my engineer on Thursday after my first long run, I was just having to learn where to attack the traffic and where not to. In GT1 I'd got so used to knowing what I was doing and letting LMP1 cars past without ruining your own lap. Now I've got to learn to attack, and what's the best and most efficient way to get through the corners and the traffic. That's the hardest part at the moment.

Q. How are you adapting to the car itself?

DT: I've done two Le Mans Series races now. The hardest thing was I missed the Monza low downforce test so I'm having to get used to the low downforce and it's fast as hell down the straight. I don't know what we're at, 215-220mph. You do get used to it. The braking is that much deeper, but you're arriving much faster. All my reference points that I've built up over years of driving GT1 cars, you go past them. There's a bit of you that says 'I should brake now' and you have to say 'no no, you have to brake here now', so you have to re-educate yourself.

I love it, this race is fantastic. The only bad thing is some of the things that go along with it. It's just some of the hassle of getting into and out of the circuit. They could make that stuff so much nicer for the people that put on the show.

Q. Is there a competitive element for you wanting to beat the former grand prix drivers you're racing with?

DT: They're the same as any other. I want to beat Tomas [Enge] as much as I want to beat Anthony [Davidson]. It doesn't change just because they're from F1 - it doesn't make me drive any differently. What is probably more evidetnt, more with Ant than Jos because Jos is Mr horizontal, cool, been there and done it. Me and Ant are mates away from the track and there's that element of mate competitiveness. At the moment I've got the advantage because I know Le Mans and I've been driving the car. I'm happy and in the groove. It's very close between us and that's how it will be and stay for the race.

It will be interesting to see race stints because last night I got in the car just after Ant, it was dark and his pace wasn't as competitive as in the daylight so I think he's still learning it at night. Hopefully we can get it tonight that he goes the dusk going into night stint because that will help him acclimatise to the dark. It is bloody hard to pick up your reference points in the dark and I've got that few years extra experience. Last time he drove here he didn't do too much in the dark before he ran out of talent! [laughs]

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Turner 'more relaxed' racing in LMP1
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