Having shone at every level in GT Racing, TF Sport are set for its second 24 Hours of Le Mans this coming Saturday (16 June, 2018,) aiming to add the most famous race on the calendar to its already impressive tally of success.
Fielding the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE with Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Charlie Eastwood, the team have high expectations following a debut finish of seventh in the LMGTE-Am class in 2017.
Testing last Sunday saw the team notch up 59 laps during the day of running and the team are hoping to carry the momentum from its superb debut FIA World Endurance Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps where they finished second in class, just two-tenths of a second behind the race winner.
While the team have very high expectations of a strong result, they are well-aware of the pitfalls of 24-Hour races and the competition that will come from the other 12 runners in the class.
“I almost literally cannot wait! It’s not just the race, but that’s a huge element, it the whole thing, the build up to the event and all that goes with it. From a young age I’ve followed this race and to be taking part at this early stage of my career is something very special.
“The test was useful, all about mileage and track time rather than chasing any times. I completed my mandatory number of laps as a rookie at this circuit, and had a few extra, so that is a bonus. The weather forecast doesn’t look promising though with rain predicted. We’d all rather have a dry race as it’s one less variable for us to work with.
“I think we’re all at the top of our driver ranking classes, so we have a very good chance of a good result.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“This is one of those races where you can say ‘who knows?’ it really is a very tough race. We showed well in our first WEC race with our P2 result. I think the Le Mans field will be very competitive but we also have a stellar line-up and we will have decent pace.
“Last year we were faster than the class winner and for this race it’s all about staying out of trouble; it’s a really fine line between pushing and going fast and not making any mistakes. If we have a trouble-free event, I think we should be on the podium.”
“Le Mans is special, not just to me but for everyone in the motorsport world. It’s the biggest single race, probably bigger than any Grand Prix.
“Everybody dreams of racing at Le Mans. I’ve got two shots at this in the WEC Super Season. To win is always the ambition and would also be a huge relief. So that’s the aim but you always need luck at Le Mans. We’ll see what happens, but we’re good enough to win definitely.”
“I can’t wait! We had the pace to win last year and it was an amazing experience. I pray we can have the same package in terms of pace as in 2017. I think we’re all on the pace but at Le Mans it really isn’t all about lap time, it’s about no mistakes.
“I’m looking forward to being a celebrity again for all of those two minutes at the driver parade – the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life – I now know what Brad Pitt feels like!”
Porsche Carrera Cup Scholar Charlie Eastwood continued his debut season with his sixth rookie class win of the season and two points finishes at Croft.
The fast and flowing 2.1 mile North Yorkshire circuit is notoriously hard on tyres, with lots of high-commitment corners that require a well-balanced car in order to achieve the best lap-times.
Unlike the circuits the Carrera Cup GB has visited so far, this would be the first time Eastwood had raced at Croft, but despite this disadvantage, the 20-year-old managed the second quickest time in FP2.
However, traffic meant he was unable to set a representative time on his second set of tyres in qualifying and the Redline Racing driver would have to settle for starting seventh and eighth.
“We were P3 on the first set of tyres, but on the second set, which is always the faster, I wasn’t able to set a time due to the traffic. That put us seventh and eighth, so there was a lot of work to be done from there. “
In Race One, Eastwood made his now customary excellent start around the outside to take fourth and top rookie, a position he held to the flag after seeing off pressure from team-mate Tom Oliphant.
As the tyres deteriorated, the Ulsterman found himself at the head of a long line of cars bottled up behind Stephen Jelley for the final podium position, but the checkered flag came just too soon to make a move against the category veteran and add to his tally of three podiums so far this year. Nevertheless, Eastwood was able to take the rookie honours once again.
“We made a change just before the race to help the rear tyre degradation and the guys up front definitely started to go off before ours did. In the last three or four laps we were really able to close down on them and with a couple more laps, a podium was definitely on the cards. All in all, it wasn’t a bad race coming from seventh.”
At the rolling start in Race Two, Eastwood was forced wide at turn two and lost ground to Alessandro Latif. A good exit from the hairpin meant Eastwood managed to get fully alongside, but Latif continued to move across his line until there was nowhere left to go.
Being squeezed onto the grass and the subsequent loss of momentum would cost him a further two positions and drop Eastwood off the back of the lead group. Despite incurring some damage in the incident, Eastwood was able to recover to his original starting position with an opportunistic pass Euan MacKay into the high-speed Jim Clark Esses on Lap 7, followed by a decisive move on Sean Hudspeth into Clerveaux on Lap 8.
“It could have been a lot worse than it actually was, I lost the front splitter which is really important around Croft and it dropped us behind the Pro-Am 1 guys. Once I got past them, without the front splitter it was going to be very hard to make any further progress.”
In the end, it was a case of what might have been for Eastwood, as he reaches the halfway point in the season fourth in points, having slipped behind Jelley in the standings.
“It’s a little bit disappointing, it wasn’t the result that our pace deserved, but we’ve still got six wins and two seconds in the rookie points, so I’m very pleased with how it’s going this year. I’m now looking forward to seeing where I am against the big boys in the Supercup race at Silverstone in three weeks’ time and I’ve got Goodwood this weekend, so I’m keeping myself busy!”
The next round of the championship will be held at more familiar climes of Snetterton in Norfolk, a circuit Eastwood has fond memories of, having taken two podiums there in BRDC F4.