Double Le Mans winner and Aston Martin Racing stalwart Darren Turner says it will take time for former F1 driver Bruno Senna to adapt to GT racing but he’ll be up to speed quickly.
Senna has joined AMR this season racing the Vantage GTE. Switching from 750bhp single seaters weighing around 650kg for machines less powerful, and twice as heavy, will provide new challenges for the Brazilian.
“It will take him time to adapt to driving a GT car,” Turner told Racing.gt. “There is no way of getting around that. He needs track time but the team have made sure they’ll give him adequate track time to get up to speed.”
“Whether it takes one day, or three or four days is not a problem: he’s still going to have plenty of time before the first race and I don’t think anybody can really doubt his race pace. He’s going to be up with us guys pretty quick.”
So what are the biggest differences Senna is likely to experience – aside from the speed?
“Not only how they accelerate and brake but the way that they can turn. Change of direction is very rapid in a Grand Prix car. And I think the extra mass of a GT car I think will take the most time to adapt to.
“Everything happens a little bit slower. The car is still on the limit and he’ll probably find driving on the limit even harder because the car doesn’t react as fast compared to a Grand Prix car. But it’s judging where the limit is and it’s that extra mass which is probably going to be the biggest thing he’ll need to learn.
Senna is looking forward to the year ahead and was all smiles at the 2013 Vantage GTE launch. He recognises the change ahead and what needs to be done.
“For me it’s a new challenge, very different from what I’ve done before and I have a lot to learn from these guys to get to the same level,” he told Racing.gt.
“It’s all about sharing the car and working together with the other guys to go forward with the team and the car. It’s driving a very different type of race, having been used to driving cars with wings and very light weight, very fast. These cars are a bit more ‘meat’.
“Winning Le Mans is the dream of any driver out there and if we can win this class it’ll be a pretty awesome achievement.”
Multi-class racing is of course a very different discipline to a formula series. Sports car racing at this level is a race within a race within a race. Not only are there several classes of cars all doing their own stuff on the same bit of tarmac, but there are two classes of driver taking part as well in some of the series.
Racing.gt asked Turner what were the characteristics of racing with professional and amateur drivers and what signs indicated that on track.
“The thing you can tell, before you even get there, behind the car, from a distance, is if they are an amateur or if they are a professional. And it’s generally track placement: where they are putting the car, the sort of things that they are doing is a bit of a give-away of what level of experience and what level of driver it is.
“Then you adapt. Ok I am closing on this car, closing at quite a high rate so I’m guessing it’s either a pro driver on very old tyres and struggling or it’s an AM car, AM driver and as you get closer you work out ok, I need to give this guy a bit more space because I’m sure he’s an AM.
“They’re all different and that’s why you need to give them a bit more space. It’s not that they’re bad or anything, it’s just that they’re guys who have a proper job, unlike us, during the week and they race for fun at the weekend.
“And maybe they want to race at an international level where all the pros. We’ve eaten, breathed and only thought about motor racing since we were ten years old or even younger so we only understand motor racing, so it’s more comfortable, more natural for us. The gentlemen drivers tend to be one step behind what’s going on and the pros generally one step ahead.”
So what does it feel like on the formation lap — all cars steady behind the pace car ready for the lights to go green. Are there nerves?
“It depends on the circuit, like Le Mans, when you get to the start-finish line the whole thing has been spread out because of the last chicane and because the GTs are behind the LMP2 cars, you’re effectively dealing with some gentlemen drivers and so you’re already frustrated before you even take the start. So that’s a bit of a strange one because where you start on the grid,” Turner said.
“But in the other races it is like you’re going into battle and you have got to have all your wits about you and you got to be calm — racing is high energy, a lot of adrenaline is going along and different drivers react in different ways to that adrenaline. Some become super aggressive and believe everything has to be won on the first corner.
“I’d rather fight at the end of the race, than at the beginning and then not be able to complete the whole race. So it’s about keeping calm and that’s what I try to focus on when I start.”