TF Sport came to Fuji, Japan for the first fly away event of the World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Fuji and left closer in the Championship after a fine second place in the GTE Am class following an exemplary performance by team and drivers in challenging conditions.
With a new legion of Japanese fans watching on, TF started the race from fifth position in class on a treacherous track caused by light and intermittent rain that continued to fall sporadically as the race got under way. Tyre choice was crucial, and the team opted for intermediate rubber as Charlie Eastwood took the start, initially behind the safety car, quickly making up a position in the early stages as the cars were released to race, doing well to stay out of trouble as the conditions took their toll on some rivals.
A series of safety cars for incidents kept the field together and as the track started to dry. Timing for pit stops and tyre choice became a gamble. On lap 29 Charlie pitted from sixth in class to take slick tyres only to find a DC Racing LMP2 car in his pit box delaying the car momentarily. Charlie made steady progress as conditions became more stable and brought the Aston up to fourth as he handed the car to Salih Yoluc on the two-hour mark.
Salih then proceeded to have a great double stint when it was most needed, driving quickly and without mistakes to close the gap to the top three that had extended through the pit stop phase to bring the car into contention as he handed the car to Jonny Adam for the final two-hours to the flag.
Jonny found himself 40 seconds behind the leader in P2 after the pit stop sequence unfolded and set about closing on the Porsche ahead, steadily reducing the gap to under 30 seconds as the race progressed but was unable to make a sustained challenge on the eventual winning Project 1 Porsche. In the latter stages coming under pressure from a second Porsche, the Dempsey Proton car which he was powerless to defend from dropping back into third where the team crossed the finishing line.
As the podium ceremony took place the stewards were investigating both of the cars standing above TF Sport on the podium for infringements under double waved yellow flags towards the latter stages of the race. Deliberations continued into the night and finally after many hours, TF Sport were promoted to second place, with the Dempsey Proton entry being penalised, dropping to fourth position. The Project 1 car escaping sanction.
TF Sport are now solidly third position in the Championship with 54 points, well within reach of second with 66 and the leaders with 80.
All eyes now turn to the next round the 6 hours of Shanghai China in a months time.
“We have to be happy with the race and closing up a bit more in the championship. Looking back, if three or four things had gone our way we may have had a chance to win here but over a 6-hour endurance race no one gets it perfect. We’ve now been bridesmaids three times so hopefully we can get a win in Shanghai and make Christmas a bit shorter before the 2019 final races of the Super Season.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“Overall I am pretty happy, three podiums in three standard (6-hour) WEC races in our first season isn’t too bad and all the guys today were strong and drove a faultless race. We still don’t have the outright pace of the Porsches so it’s difficult to push for victory as they have more speed, but this is another good result for TF Sport and we are still in the Championship race.”
“I really enjoyed racing here in Japan, the track and the fans are great. I was happy with my double stint, I got into a nice rhythm and caught up to the guys in front of me through the stint. If we had a bit more luck with the full course yellow timing and our pit stop we may have gained a minute and been comfortable looking at a win.”
“We had a good race and had good pace from qualifying right through the end of the race. I was able to push for the last two hours, but the Porsches just had a bit too much pace for us to contend with. Salih really upped his game today and if that continues we will be in good shape for the rest of the season.”
The final round of the Blancpain GT Series saw Oman Racing with TF Sport record a fifth-place finish on Sunday (30 September) to bring to a close the 2018 Endurance Cup Silver Cup campaign with Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay.
The team had hoped to cap off the season with a podium position, but the timing of late race safety car periods means that the team had to be satisfied with another strong showing albeit with a fifth-place finish after three hours of intense racing.
Saturday practice saw the team run through the setup programme, predominantly focusing on longer runs with used tyres while qualifying on Sunday saw the trio qualify in sixth position in the class.
Ahmad took the opening stint of the race, steering clear of the usual opening lap contact to maintain his position and keeping pressure on the #12 Lambo of Andrea Rizzoli ahead. As the race settled, Ahmad found himself having to defend from the #24 car from behind before pitting just before the one-hour mark and a handing over to Euan.
The second stint saw Euan drop behind the #28, now driven by Toby Sowery, but by mid-distance was back up to sixth position. Charlie took over for the run to the chequered flag following another safety car period and made the pass on the #28 and set about closing the gap to the #12 of Alex Frassineti ahead in fourth.
As string of safety cars in the final 30 minutes of racing however put paid to any hopes of making further gains and Charlie duly brought the #97 Aston Martin GT3 home in fifth position.
“It was a good result, a little high for the end of the season. We didn’t get the best start to the weekend but my stint didn’t go too badly. It’s been a tough season in Blancpain but for me it was more about learning all about endurance racing to then put that additional experience to my WEC programme. So, I have learned a great deal and will use that knowledge gained though the rest of the season.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“The result really sums up our year in this category really. Perhaps we didn’t quite get it right in qualifying and that put us on the back foot. We showed much better pace in the race but then we got a bit unlucky with safety cars towards the end, so another fifth place. That’s two fifth, two fourths. It’s a shame we couldn’t end the season with a podium.”
Ahmad Al Harthy
“Everyone drove perfectly and we kept away from incidents but the safety cars didn’t work in our favour. It’s a real shame as more was possible, but it’s still a good way to finish the season. Big thank you to our incredible sponsors, the fans back home in Oman, all the guys in the team and, of course, my team-mates Euan and Charlie.”
1st October 2017: Charlie Eastwood is 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Champion. The thrilling season finale at Brands Hatch this weekend saw hard fought racing and determination shine through from the 2016/17 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Scholar.
Following one of the most important qualifying sessions of the season, all three title contenders in the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the U.K., locked out the front two rows of the grid for rounds fourteen and fifteen at Brands Hatch circuit, Kent.
Championship leader Charlie (Redline Racing) started the penultimate race from P4, affording the Belfast man a good chance to defend his four-point dropped score advantage over his closest title rival, Dino Zamparelli who lined up alongside him on the grid.
The damp track presented tricky, greasy conditions that produced a frantic contest from the off. There were multiple changes in positions throughout the entire race, but Charlie hung on to an important points scoring fourth to boost him to a six points advantage over Zampareilli going in to the final event.
With the Redline Racing team securing the 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Team Championship at the end of round 14, their tenth since the championship launched in 2003, the main Carrera Cup GB Drivers’ title went down to the very last lap of the very last race of the year. Starting from third, the Belfast man knew that the 2017 crown was within his grasp as the track and weather conditions grew worse. The leading pack of the 21 car field were locked in an intense battle of clean racing and after 17 laps Charlie crossed the line in P5, enough to secure the Championship victory and celebrate the end of his second successful year in Porsche Carrera Cup GB.
Charlie scored 228 points (dropped score) with more wins under his belt than Zamparelli (228 points) to become the 2017 Carrera Cup GB Drivers’ Champion.
Charlie Eastwood says:
“I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone at Porsche for giving me this amazing opportunity; to have the best two years of racing that I have ever had. Also, thank you to all my family for supporting me through all the ups and downs over the years, but we always come out on top in the end and for that I am very grateful!”
During a wet Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon at Silverstone Circuit all Carrera Cup GB cars, except for the #28 Redline Racing Porsche of Charlie Eastwood, had their best and second lap times disallowed for exceeding track limits. Charlie qualified in P3 for Round 12 and P2 for Round 13, but with a ten-place grid penalty carried over from the Knockhill event, the Belfast man lined up in thirteenth position on the grid on Sunday morning.
The safety car led the 22-car strong field for the first two green laps of race one during which Charlie fought back from his penalization through treacherously wet conditions. He drove a mature and accomplished race to finish fourth in the proceedings, maintaining top spot in the Championship going in to the afternoon.
The sun had broken through the clouds in time for the crucial final round at the home of British Motor Racing in Northamptonshire. 2016/17 Porsche GB Scholar Charlie made the best of the front row starts, launching past the pole sitter in to turn one. However, an ongoing issue with the #28 Redline Racing charger meant that despite his best efforts, Charlie was unable to muster enough pace out of his car and lost position to his immediate racing rivals. Following the retirement of race leader Cammish on lap 22, Charlie claimed a well-defended P3 podium trophy and continues to lead the 2017 Carrera Cup GB Drivers’ Championship on 202 points.
Charlie Eastwood comments:
“It wasn’t an ideal weekend. We struggled with the car’s handling since testing on Tuesday; we turned the car upside down trying to find the issue. When we got in to Qualifying on Saturday it felt like the problem was still there, so we said to ourselves ‘right, let’s just try to forget about it and go forward’. It’s very frustrating as we know it’s not a setup problem, but something fundamental inside the car. The team did a great job re-building it for the event, but we need to work hard over the next two weeks to see what the issue could be before we head to Brands Hatch and try to maintain that lead.”
The finale of the 2017 Carrera Cup GB takes place at Brands Hatch, Kent on 30th September and 1st October, 2017.
Results: #28 Charlie Eastwood, Redline Racing
|Qualifying – Round 12||P3 (started P13*) – fastest lap 56.020 seconds (105.42 MPH)|
|Qualifying – Round 13||P2 – second fastest lap 56.106 seconds (105.25 MPH)|
|Round 12 – Result||P4 - 21 laps, best lap time 1:01.304 minute|
|Round 13 – Result||P3 - 27 laps, best lap time 56.671 seconds|
Charlie Eastwood clinched the Porsche Carrera Cup GB rookie class title with a scintillating podium display at Silverstone’s National Circuit.
Following a second consecutive double podium weekend at Knockhill, the 21 year-old arrived in Northamptonshire poised to continue his good run of form late in the season.
Eastwood pocketed his £50,000 rookie class prize with a surging run through the field from 11th on the grid in race one. The Porsche Scholar wasted no time in picking off his rivals, moving up five positions on the first two laps before dispatching Lewis Plato – his chief opponent in the rookie standings – heading through Woodcote. The overtakes didn’t stop there, as Eastwood charged past Dino Zamparelli with a gutsy move on the inside at Copse, before moving into podium territory with a well-timed late braking manoeuvre heading into Brooklands.
He then came under pressure from Stephen Jelley towards the end, but produced a stern defensive drive to keep his hard earned third place. The result netted him a further 16 points in the championship, which was more than enough to seal the rookie class title with three races to spare.
That was the plan all year. We’ve been improving every single race and chipping away at it, so to have the rookie championship wrapped up as soon as we have is a great feeling. We had a problem with glazed brakes in qualifying, so 11th wasn’t where our pace was, but we got a really good start and just picked them all off one by one.
It was definitely my best race in a Porsche. We still had some problems with the brakes and with the tyres locking up; without that, second might have been on the cards, but it was a great recovery from where we were.
The second 28-lap contest saw the Northern Irishman deliver another strong performance to finish fourth and notch up his 12th top five finish of 2016. Starting from the inside this time in seventh, Eastwood again made inroads on his opening lap, passing two cars to assert himself in the top five.
After stretching out a lead to the group behind, Eastwood was forced to defend when a safety car bunched up the field on lap eight. Determined to keep the heat on the race leaders towards the end, he pushed on to escape the clutches of the chasing pack, finishing just three seconds shy of third position.
We started seventh and got a good start, we didn’t have the dominant pace that we had in the first one but to come away with a third and fourth from eleventh and seventh is a lot better than we expected this morning!
An impressive 30 point weekend at Silverstone safeguards Eastwood’s place in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB top three. Although the overall championship is now out of reach, just 14 points separate him from second place heading into the final round of the year at Brands Hatch on October 2nd.
Hopefully if we get the qualifying back to where it needs to be we can challenge as we have at Snetterton and Knockhill. There’s only 14 points between myself and Dino Zamparelli in the championship for second, so I’ll be trying my hardest to grab some points off him in the first race and set it up for a battle in the second race.
Charlie Eastwood extended his run of podiums in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB to four in a row, with another pair of second place finishes on his first visit to Knockhill.
Following his best weekend in a Porsche to date at Snetterton, the 21-year-old Porsche scholar arrived in Scotland riding the crest of a wave and eager to maintain his good form on the busy 1.3 mile circuit.
With all 20 cars completing sub-1 minute laptimes, finding clear track in qualifying would be a real challenge, but Eastwood clearly hadn’t read the script. Showing that a lack of circuit knowledge was no hindrance, he pumped in four times each within a few hundredths of each other to put himself on the front row for both races.
“We knew that qualifying is fairly crucial at most tracks, but especially around here. We struggled a bit on Friday but on Saturday we put a couple of really good laps together to get ourselves onto the front row and give us a chance to try and go for the win”
From his outside grid slot, the Northern Irishman tucked into second behind Redline Racing team-mate Dan Cammish at the start of race one before setting off in pursuit. Their laptimes were very close – Eastwood only 0.012 away from taking a second fastest lap of the season – but with only one line through the stretch from Scotsman over the blind, uphill chicane, it was difficult to follow Cammish through the traffic and he would have to settle for second, 2.1 seconds in arrears. The second 31-lap encounter unfolded in much a similar fashion, as Eastwood again made a good start, before settling into second place. The gap between the two leaders ebbed and flowed throughout the race due to the traffic, but all the while Eastwood was able to keep himself out of the clutches of the chasing Tom Sharp.
“I tried a move around the outside, especially in the first one, but he covered it well and really used all the exit to give me no room. Because it’s such a small track, I knew that the traffic was going to play it’s part but it does average out by the end – you gain a little bit and you lose a little bit. It was quite a lonely race for us, unfortunately it wasn’t a lonely race out front but in second place, but all in all, it was another good haul of points. These four second places show we can be consistent and fast, so hopefully we can keep that going for the rest of the year.”
His fourth P2 finish in succession means Eastwood has now closed to within 16 points of second in the overall standings, while another pair of rookie class wins – Eastwood’s ninth and tenth of the year – have consolidated his margin over nearest rival Lewis Plato. With two rounds to go, the Northern Irishman is now well on course to meet the targets he set himself at the start of the season.
“This year we were really focused on winning the rookie championship and I think we’ve dominated that quite well. Our goal was just to be pushing for podiums, but here and at Snetterton, we’ve really been able to push Dan hard for the win, which shows we’re getting closer and closer. We’re closing in on Dino Zamparelli a lot now and if we can finish the year with the rookie championship and second overall, we can’t ask for much more.”