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Le Mans 2014: a driver's-eye view

  1. We all know Le Mans. We know the track, the drivers, the cars, and the history. But a little insider knowledge never hurt, which is why we asked one of the most experienced drivers on the 2014 Le Mans grid to share his thoughts ahead of one of the most anticipated races in years.

    Two-time Le Mans class winner, Aston Martin Racing’s Darren Turner, takes part in his 12th Le Mans this year - read on for some revealing thoughts on how this year is going to be very different…

  2. "We'll all have to behave going through the Ford Chicane this year"

    “Every year when we go back to Le Mans there is a change - where barriers are, where the run-off is, where kerbs are - and this year is no different. The Ford Chicane, the last corner, has been changed and it is a change for the better. It was always meant to be a very slow-speed corner but the way the kerbs were laid out meant some cars could really take advantage, making it a third gear corner for some and a second gear corner for others.

    “Now it’s a first gear corner for everyone. Bigger, angled kerbs means that you can’t cheat. This will make life easier for everyone as there will just be one line through there.”

  3. "We need to look at where accidents start, not just where they finish"

    “The circuit has been busy over the winter making some safety changes, certainly at Tetre Rouge where Allan (Simonsen) went off last year. It’s always easy after the event to say ‘that was an obvious place to improve’ but for me it’s a shame as they’ve changed the part where the accident happened but they’ve not changed, what I believe, is the cause of the accident, which is the way the paint finishes and the tarmac starts.

    “We were on slicks, that part of the circuit was damp, Allan is out on the kerb, then he’s got his wheels on the paint the other side. All under control. A little bit of opposite lock. 100% throttle as he knows he is fully under control. Then, as the rear left comes off the paint it grips on the tarmac, which is what sent the car in the other direction.

    “The only difference between that and the two guys who spun in front of Allan was that they were more crossed up as they got on the paint so when they spun they spun inwards. Allan had his car more under control so it bit and threw him the other way.

    “They’ve done a great job on the circuit and there is now a lot more protection for people who go off there, but sometimes the place where the accident starts needs to be looked at too.”

  4. "When are you going to brake for the Slow Zone?"

    “About six hours of last year’s race ended up under the safety car for barrier repairs and such like. This year they are introducing a ‘slow zone’, a 60kph zone that just affects the area where the problem is and allows us to race for the remainder of the lap. It makes sense on a long track like Le Mans.

    “What happens is, for example, if an area of barrier is being repaired the drivers will get plenty of warning, then we’ll see a board that says ‘60’ on it and from that point until you see a green flag you have to run at 60kph.

    “What’s going to be interesting is to see how everyone responds to that area of slowing down for the start of the slow zone. Some drivers will slow down ready for the slow zone and some will leave it until the last moment to hit the brakes, in the same way you do when entering the pit lane. Everyone in the slow zone will do the same time but the big differences will be in the way people deal with slowing down before the start of the slow zone.

    “It might cause problems as you can imagine a less experienced driver seeing the first warning and slowing dramatically, which could cause people to pile into the back of them. Everyone is going to have to be vigilant and we will work with the organisers, giving them feedback about how it works from the driver’s point of view. Sometimes the reality behind the wheel is different to the theory but let’s see how it goes.”

  5. "It's great to see other manufacturers taking on the might of Audi"

    “The P1 battle is going to be so good this year. Audi have had it all their own way for a long time so now everyone is enjoying the battle that Toyota has taken to them in the last few years and Porsche will no doubt do too. All three have gone about building their race cars completely differently so it’s an interesting battle. It’s great that the fastest category has some real competition going on now.

    “From a driver’s point of view we’ve watched the Audis win, year in year out, and there are a lot of drivers in the Audi camp that I know and like and all that, but I always want to see another car win because Audi have always been the biggest manufacturer in the paddock. They’ve always had the biggest paddock set up, the biggest motorhomes, the biggest hospitality - they’ve dominated on and off the track - so it’s refreshing to see someone take the fight to them.”

  6. "Don't flash your lights at me; I can see you!"

    “I don’t know if every GT driver sees it like this but out on the circuit I do get fed up with being flashed at! I’ve no idea what they’re flashing at because it’s not as if I can just disappear. I’m doing my own race thank you very much. Some of the P1s start flashing from half a kilometre away, as if I haven’t seen the bright lights that those cars pump out anyway. What they need to know though is that I tend to be more helpful, if I can, to the ones that don’t flash me, so it’s a waste of time flashing and waiting for me to open the door and put a red carpet down for you. I don’t know if it feels like a ‘go faster’ switch for them but it’s not working for me.

    “I reckon I flash my lights half a dozen times during the whole season. This is mostly to flash the LMPs to annoy them once they’ve gone past me after flashing at me! I had an issue with a P2 car at the test who was flashing me into Arnage even though he was a long way back and wouldn’t be able to pass me at Arnage. He knew he could pass me before the Porsche Curves and it was his in lap. It was my in lap too but he didn’t know that. He got past me then went slow through the Porsche Curves, which is annoying, so when we came in the pitlane I just sat on his bumper flashing flashing flashing, just to be annoying.”

    Darren (pictured left) is racing the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage at Le Mans. Follow him on Twitter at @darrenturner007, and let us know if you spot him flashing his lights!

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