Darren Leung joins Century Motorsport and the Intelligent Money British GT Championship full-time this season after making the perfect start to his GT3 career by winning 2022’s Donington Decider on debut in the senior class.
Despite only taking up the sport in 2021, that largely unexpected result against the series’ established Pro-Am crews has given Leung the confidence to mount a full-scale assault this year with BMW factory driver Dan Harper.
When announcing entries, British GT’s press officer asks drivers to provide a quote. These are often short and fairly formulaic. Not so Darren’s, which we had to drastically cut down for Century’s GT3 announcement.
However, Darren’s story is so captivating – as well as self-deprecating! – that we wanted to share the full quote with you.
Take it away, Darren…
At the start of my 2021 rookie season in Ginetta’s GT Academy (a BGT support race) I remember the GT3s approaching the Melbourne Hairpin at Donington blowing my mind. If someone told me I’d be racing one of those in my second year I would have laughed, and if they said I’d win on my debut I would have rung them an ambulance.
I have little to no natural talent (ask my coach Bobby Thompson about my very first day), but I love learning, figuring things out and I’m willing to work my a** off. When the Century opportunity came up I was hesitant about giving it a go – the grid is full of very impressive individuals with tonnes of experience, the championship is held in very high regard and thousands of people pay to come watch many £millions worth of the finest race cars go toe-to-toe. The risk of being a rabbit in headlights felt real.
What I couldn’t comprehend was how much racing in Ginetta’s GT Academy would teach me about car racing. As a total novice, it gave me a friendly, safe environment to really learn and understand something completely different – the fundamentals of car racing. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and to anyone thinking of giving it a go, DO (0.00% chance of regret). The GTA gave me enough confidence to make the jump to GT4 Supercup with Assetto Motorsport.
Stacked with hungry raw talent and veterans who’ve been racing far longer than I’ve held a road car license, the learning curve was steep. I retained Ginetta’s Charlie Robertson, a Supercup champion and factory driver to show me how it’s done. I immersed myself just as I did in GTA, and I was happy with (most of!) my performances, getting some Am wins and occasionally being close enough to the younger lads to learn a lot from them. Simon and the lads at Assetto really delivered me every chance to succeed week in, week out.
So I found myself accepting an invite to test the car [BMW M4 GT3], and if that wasn’t a total disaster, I’d give the Donington Decider a go. The test went well, and the race was a go. I was very nervous but when the race weekend came, I knew I was willing to throw everything I had at it. Just before qualifying, the clouds were BLACK. I knew how to drive a cold slick thanks to my Supercup experience so I asked the team to send me out early and let me wait first in the pit lane. It rained with three corners left of my one and only push lap and thought it’s either boom or bust, so just send it. The championship protagonists who left the pits after me didn’t manage to set a representative time. I made it through the last corner just about and found myself on pole for the Am session. Our gamble paid off. But an issue in the second session meant we started P4.
In the race it was all about getting my head down and after Abba picked up an issue I found myself battling for the lead. My team were flawless and we retained our lead. That hour was the longest hour of my life. I couldn’t believe we were overall leaders in British GT. The atmosphere in the garage was on a knife edge. The last corner of the race the garage erupted. British GT’s longest consecutive team got their first British GT overall win, and I won on my GT3 debut. When I was interviewed I was speechless. When asked how I found it, my response was ‘it was hard, it was really hard. Yep.’ I could barely speak. I took my place on the top step with Sims, opposite the Ginetta hospitality unit, where it all started less than two seasons ago. It really sank in how much credit that unlikely win belonged to Bobby, Ginetta, Assetto, Century, and all the other driver coaches, engineers, mechanics (the list goes on and on) who helped me achieve what is one of my proudest moments ever.
After the dust (and champagne) settled, I got to work on figuring out plans for 2023. The win was the result of some hard work, but luck and circumstance played a HUGE part. This is not lost on me.
I’m still not sure if I have enough experience to race at this level, but what I do believe is I’ve earned my place to get stuck in, and what I am certain in is the integrity, capabilities and winning experience of Nathan and Century to mount a formidable British GT campaign despite a still green, try-hard Am driver. I’m delighted to confirm my 2023 British GT3 entry with Century Motorsport and the BMW M4 GT3.
BMW have been fantastic and have offered us a huge amount of support, most notably offering us the chance to work with Dan Harper. He’s won the Ginetta scholarship, Porsche Junior Scholarship, youngest ever Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion, became a BMW junior driver, won Nurburgring 24h (need I go on?). We raced together at the Gulf 12 Hour last year. What impressed me and Nathan about Dan wasn’t just how rapid he was, but how professional and clinical an operator he was, never mind for his age. A thoroughbred, on-track assassin, he always seemed two steps ahead of the next ask of him. How crisply he folds his overalls and organises his gear is a tell-tale sign of how in control he is. It’s no wonder he’s the only driver to have been a Ginetta and Porsche scholar and BMW junior driver. Now he’s FIA platinum and promoted to a full driver role at BMW, I’m very excited to see what we can achieve together this year.
Between Century, Dan and myself, our aim is to turn up to every round leaving no stone unturned. Set the odds in our favour, and commit to every send, every lap. We’re massive underdogs, but we’ve shown at Donington it’s worth giving it everything despite all the reasons not to. A lot of great drivers are competing in British GT this year, the grids are packed, and we will be right in the thick of it giving it everything, both on and off track. The results, we’re not in control of, but the odds, we are.
Let’s have it!