13 June 2009
Darren Turner 2009 Le Mans Diary (Part II)
In the second of three special Crash.net diary instalments over the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours weekend, Aston Martin Racing star Darren Turner shares his feelings on how qualifying went for the big race, and why Friday is anything but a 'rest' day...
It was a bit of a frustrating qualifying really. I started the session at 7 o'clock and did a long run, and the track was very green because obviously we hadn't put any rubber down the night before in the rain. I was surprised when I later went out at 11:30pm at how much the track had gripped up during those few hours, but the good thing is that the car ran reliably throughout the four hours and all three drivers are happy with the balance.
For the first two hours we just concentrated on our race balance, and Anthony Davidson went out at the beginning of the second session to put a banker qualifier in. Jos Verstappen then went out on a race run to work on that as well, and after that it was going to be a little bit more of Anthony and then I was going to get in and have a crack at it, but obviously with #007 having its accident the team decided it didn't want to take any more risks with any of the cars and played it safe.
Anthony knows the circuit of course, but it was 2003 when he was last here so he was refreshing his mind on Wednesday night and got a good run of ten laps in. He did a good job, though he got a bit baulked by traffic in turn one on his fast lap, and he was on the soft tyres so they're only good for one lap.
It was disappointing not to get another 'qualifying' run, but at the same time we certainly couldn't afford to have any more damage before the race, otherwise we wouldn't have any spares. Tomas Enge didn't get a go in #007 again, and I got told not to try and do any qualifying laps, so I stuck to a simulated race run. Overall we're in good condition and obviously our car is all in one piece.
Maybe only Peugeot banged in a quick time for the diesels, but I think our performance is reasonably close, just under five seconds out, and obviously being the top petrol car is relatively good – it's good to have both cars right up at the sharp end of the petrol brigade. I guess that's the best we could have hoped for really, because the difference to the diesel-powered cars is still too big; it will be interesting to see if their qualifying pace reflects into their race pace too.
We've got a few little changes to make now but they're only minor, so I think we're in reasonably good shape with race balance, and that's all we needed to do in the test sessions. We've just got to focus on getting a good balance in the morning warm-up, and hopefully that will lead us into the race.
After that Friday was just as hectic – we didn't stop! I literally got back to my camper, had a quick wash and shower and a bit of a breather and then got ready to go down to the town for the drivers' parade. When we finished on Thursday night, by the time I got back to the camper it was one o'clock, and my first duty of Friday was at 10 o'clock; I had 25 minutes off for lunch and the rest of the time was spent doing PR commitments for the team and looking after some sponsors with meet-and-greets.
After the parade we had a team sponsor's barbecue that we traditionally go to on the Friday evening, which makes it a full-on twelve-hour day. It would be nice if Friday was a rest day, but it isn't! You try and conserve your energy through it by not walking around the paddock too much or not doing too many bits and bobs throughout the day, but still it's always a very busy day.
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