It was a near perfect start for TF Sport at the very highest level in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as just 0.2s separated them from a sensational debut win in the series on Saturday in what was a thrilling battle with the factory Aston Martin entry in the LMGTE Pro-Am class at Spa-Francorchamps.
After a pre-season test at Paul Ricard, plus additional testing in Europe, TF Sport were as prepared as they could be they could be heading into their maiden season in WEC. Having won in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, then in European Le Mans Series, the team arrived ready and battling for victories.
Qualifying didn’t go as planned with a setup issues on the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE costing both Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey dearly, but come race day, the pre-season hard work showed dividends.
Yoluc started the race from sixth and moved fourth from the get-go, showing clear intentions from the start. It was a very strong stint from the Bronze driver, who later opted to cede positions to the Pro drivers ahead before pitting for Charlie Eastwood.
Undeterred by this being his first WEC start, Eastwood wasted no time in closing the gap to those ahead in class, cutting the gap from some 80 seconds to 40 by the end of his stint, before Euan Hankey was handed the reins to bring the car home.
The gap hovered around the 35-second mark as Hankey and the factory #98 driven by Pedro Lamy traded best lap times. A safety car however closed the field with Hankey just six seconds adrift of the class, leader.
In a thrilling conclusion to six hours of racing, Hankey gave his absolute best to gain the win, before being pushed wide, and this resulted in the second-place finish; an astonishing result for the team on its WEC debut.
“We got a lot more than we really thought coming into this weekend with the second place, only two-tenths behind, so it was a massive battle in the last stint with Euan on Pedro Lamy so in the end a one-two for Aston Martin with TF on the podium in its first WEC race. It’s also a fantastic result for myself in what is just my second ever endurance race in what is a big pond – WEC – so it gives us massive confidence for the rest of the season.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“To come into the FIA World Endurance Championship and to do that is a fantastic achievement. In saying that, we had a little luck and there’s still a few things to improve on; we need to clean some things up. Qualifying we didn’t get right so to come away with P2 demonstrates a lot of potential, so quite happy.”
“It was a good result. The Porsches were super-quick around here and, in some ways, we gained from the problems they had but we also drove without any mistakes, so I am very happy with the result. For my own performance, I am happy. The first stint was more straight forward, the second was tougher with a lot of traffic so it was about managing that and I think I do an okay job there. Overall very happy with the result.”
“We’ve entered from the European Championship to the Word Championship this year and we’ve just had our first ever podium at our first round, so we’re happy with second – a bit deflated at the same time, as to lose by two-tenths… I gave everything, gave my hardest. We made a good account of ourselves for the rest of the season.”
After a long gap between Carrera Cup GB meetings, Porsche Scholar Charlie Eastwood got straight back on the pace at Oulton Park with another podium finish, his third finish in succession.
The Northern Irishman has made an impressive start to his sports car career and continued that form in Race One.
Qualifying third, Eastwood made a good start and maintained his position throughout the race until a red flag called a halt to proceedings five laps early. Having saved his tyres in the middle portion of the race, Eastwood was closing in on the battle for the lead between Redline Racing team-mate Dan Cammish and Stephen Jelley when the race was called.
Although frustrated not to have the opportunity to attack Jelley, Eastwood was more than happy to take third, once again top rookie, which consolidates his third place in the overall point standings.
“In the end it was a fairly simplistic race. Stephen had to drive very defensively for the majority of the race, so I think he’d overworked his tyres a bit and we were clawing it back when the red flag came out. That was a bit frustrating, but even though I would have been quicker than him, making it stick would have been very tough because Oulton Park is renowned for being a difficult track to pass on and Stephen is very good at car placement. All the same, it was good to take another good podium and gain ground on Dino in the points as well.”
However, qualifying for race two didn’t go quite as planned. With only one clear lap on his second set of tyres due to repeatedly hitting Pro-Am 2 traffic, Eastwood would face an uphill battle to come through from eighth.
Knowing that a good first lap would be crucial, Eastwood made an excellent start to drive around the outside of Old Hall, before slipping inside team-mate Tom Oliphant into Cascades for sixth. Unfortunately the two made slight contact on corner exit, which knocked the tracking on Eastwood’s right front out of kilter – a particularly damaging impairment on a clockwise circuit predominantly consisting of right-handers.
A slight mistake under braking for the chicane caused damage to the splitter and brought on worsening understeer, but Eastwood soon learned to drive around the problem and capitalised on a mistake from Tom Sharp at Lodge on the penultimate tour to take fifth.
While adjusting for the steering he under braked at the chicane which caused damage to the splitter and brought on worsening understeer, but Eastwood soon learned to drive around the problem and capitalised on a mistake from Tom Sharp at Lodge on the penultimate tour to take fifth.
Under the circumstances, it was a very reasonable result, although Eastwood finished a tantalising 0.132 behind Lewis Plato for fourth and best rookie at the line.
“The start went to plan, then I came out of turn two, Tom was just trying to hang it around the outside and we made slight contact which put the tracking out by around 30 degrees. It took me a few laps to adapt to the difference in steering but once I got used to it I started pushing on and my pace at the end was actually quite good considering.
Even though the second race was the lesser result, I’d say it was a better race for me. If you look at everyone else on the grid, they were only gaining one place or maybe two, so to go from eighth to fifth when everyone around us was on the same pace was quite good, especially with the damage I had. Looking back, I would have loved to have seen what my pace would have been like without damage…”
Eastwood won’t have quite so long to wait for his next outing in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, with Round 4 at Croft set to take place on the weekend of June 18-19.
Northern Ireland’s Charlie Eastwood scored a maiden podium in only his third Porsche Carrera Cup race at Silverstone, before repeating the feat in the second race on Sunday.
Racing on the support bill of the FIA World Endurance Championship in front of the Porsche factory team, the Redline Racing rookie stepped up to the occasion giving his more experienced competitors pause for thought with a weekend that combined strong racecraft with a maturity beyond his 20 years.
An unseasonal April snowstorm greeted Eastwood on Saturday morning and caused qualifying to be cancelled, leaving the grid for the first race to be set by the championship order from Round One at Brands Hatch.
Eastwood felt he had the pace to qualify in the top three and was frustrated to start sixth, but quickly sliced his way through the pack in the tricky conditions, latching onto the back of second-placed Dino Zamparelli by the end of lap two. Showing no fear, the Carrera Cup scholar powered around the outside of Zamparelli at Stowe, but soon found himself under attack and relinquished the place again a few laps later.
“In Race One, half the grid were on wets and half were on slicks. Although I got a lot of heat out of the tyres on the warmup lap, those first five to six laps were properly hairy! Abbey is a fifth gear corner but we were taking it in third because it was soaking wet, it just didn’t seem to dry out! It was really just a case of keeping it on the black stuff.”
After a few laps of giving chase, Eastwood decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and settled for third, comfortably finishing as top Rookie Class entrant once again.
“I had quite a big gap to the guys in front and the guys behind – I knew that to catch Dino I would have to take a lot of risks, so I just settled for a podium and cruised it home for the last half of the race.”
Race Two was uneventful by comparison as Eastwood started and finished third, successfully managing the fresh set of slick tyres that had gone unused in qualifying and staying out of reach of the chasing pack.
Yet whilst pleased to have collected a pair of podiums and continued his perfect run of Rookie Class wins in 2016, Eastwood has already set his sights on the next accolade – a first victory – and on closing the points deficit to defending champion Dan Cammish, starting at Oulton Park on June 4-5.
“Race Two was fairly lonely, but we’ve got a four week gap now to get stuck in with some sim work and testing to get closer to the front two. I’m happy that I got the jump on the mid-pack and it’s now mainly the two experienced guys Cammish and Zamarelli. We knew that the first couple of races I’d be up against it, i’ve got to go up against very fast and very experienced guys in the class, but i’m now leading the rookie championship by a fair bit and up to third in the Pro championship. I just need to keep chipping away now – I’m learning more every weekend, but I still feel I have more to come.”