Aston Martin Racing heads to Silverstone for the final round of the 2009 Le Mans Series on September 13. Works driver Darren Turner takes us for a lap of the Northamptonshire circuit, the home of British motor racing, in the stunning Gulf-liveried Aston Martin LMP1.
“I really enjoy racing in the Le Mans Series. One of the great things about it is the different classes all in the same race (LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2), so there is always a lot of overtaking,” Turner notes. “We had a great result for Aston Martin with a 1-2-3- in Germany on 23 August and that has set up my colleagues in the 007 car with a great opportunity to take the title at Silverstone. We'll certainly be doing all we can to help Stefan (Mücke), Tomás (Enge) and Jan (Charouz) to take the win and the championship.
“Running three cars again at Silverstone means that there will only be Harold Primat and me in 009. I imagine that I'll do the first two hours and then get back into the car for another two-hour stint to the finish. Hard work, but I love it.
“Silverstone is definitely one of the best circuits in the world. It has a great combination of medium- and high-speed sections that are a rarity at circuits these days, as well as the more technical, second-gear corners. It is definitely great fun to race at Silverstone in something as fast and powerful as the Aston Martin LMP1 car, especially through the fast, flowing sections.
“Silverstone is also the last race of our season so there will be a good atmosphere. It is always great to race at home on a circuit you know well. I am looking forward to the weekend and having lots of family, friends and personal sponsors around.” COPSE
“Copse is a very fast corner. You'll probably find a few people in qualifying trying to go through there in sixth, but it is likely to be fifth gear for most. You have a small window to get the turning point right and carry good apex speed as you can't see the apex. Thankfully it opens out, but we can't really run wide and over the rumble strips, like some people do, as the LMP1 car has minimal ground clearance so we have to be tidy.” BECKETTS
“The Becketts complex is probably the best combination in the world. You go in flat out and then it is a delicate balance of gradually reducing speed until the last right hander while making sure you can get a good exit onto the Hangar Straight. You could probably carry more speed through all the turns but that would compromise your exit. There is obviously quite a performance differential between the different Le Mans Series classes, so you are constantly overtaking throughout the lap. Silverstone has some good long straights, like Hangar, where we can blast past the slower cars at up to 190mph (at Le Mans, where we set the cars up with less downforce, the Aston Martin will reach up to 220mph). But the track is so wide at Silverstone that you can also overtake around the outside through many of the turns that can be quite spectacular – if a little hairy off the racing line.”
STOWE, VALE, CLUB
“Stowe is a challenging, fast corner that drops away after the apex but the camber helps you. If you get a good exit you can slingshot down the inside of people to overtake into Vale before you hit Club.
“Club is a compromise and another challenging corner. I always have the feeling I could have done it better but when I try something different it is no quicker. You have to short shift to keep the traction under control.” ABBEY
“Abbey is a corner I really like. You can see the BRDC farm and the grandstand ahead of you. Here we can run a good amount of the car over the curbs and carry a fair amount of speed in third to make sure you get a good exit through Bridge.” BRIDGE, PRIORY, BROOKLANDS AND LUFFIELD
“Bridge is a fast right that you just lift through in fifth before it takes you into ‘the complex', the slowest section of the track. You can line yourself up on the exit and keep your speed up to force yourself up the inside for a pass going into Priory.
“Priory is a difficult corner with a blind apex over the top of a crest. But it's an exciting place to overtake. You have to commit yourself fully to make sure you are right up alongside, or slightly in front of, the other car so that they can see you before they turn in.
“With enough grip you can also make a dash up the inside into Brooklands and get high on the curb. This slower section can be a bit awkward with the GT2 cars. Some of them have great traction and you can end up having to fight them off through here. You dive from Brooklands to hug the inside line around Luffield where the grip tends to be better.”
“The exit from Luffield is very important to make sure you get a good blast through Woodcote and onto the start finish straight. It's a very wide entry but then narrows past the pit lane where you have no real time to look at your pit board – especially if you are at the far end. The line in the dry or wet is very different through Woodcote, probably because of all the painted lines that can make the car kick about in the wet. In the dry it's an easy corner but much more challenging when it's wet.”