For rising star Charlie Eastwood, the 2018 season has already provided its fair share of memorable moments, ranging from the sensational three runner-up positions in the FIA World Endurance Championship with TF Sport, to arriving at the garage in the dead of night at Le Mans with the bonnet completely missing. However the remaining races of the year pan out, it has already been a standout performance from the Belfast racer.
With a background in single seaters, Charlie made the switch to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship in 2016, taking a victory before going on to dominate the series in his second year of competition. This paved the way for the next step in his professional career as he stepped up to a twin programme in FIA WEC and the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup driving the Aston Martin Vantage GTE and GT3 respectively.
TF Sport announced Charlie’s WEC programme in January and immediately he was looking forward to the challenge. “It’s going to be a big challenge to step up to what is the very top in GT Racing, it’s a big old step,” he explained at he time. “With the line-up we have, we are confident we’ll be quick in each of our driver categories. There’s a lot of unknowns for all of us obviously, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. I know Silverstone and Le Mans and we’re planning on a good test programme. So as a team we all have the same desire and I can’t wait to get started!”
The first round of the championship took place at Spa-Francorchamps and it turned out to be a sensational WEC debut for Charlie as he helped the team secure second position, less than two-tenths of a second behind the class-winning car. His mid-stint race saw the deficit to the leader halved from 80 to 40 seconds, and this was pivotal in the victory challenge.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Meanwhile the Blancpain season had already kicked off at Monza with the Charlie and the team recovering well from chassis damage early in the weekend to finish in fifth position. On to Silverstone for round two and a victory was very much a possibility but contact and steering damage late in the race put paid to the challenge.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the hardest races in the world and to finish can be a challenge in itself. TF Sport came close with 23 hours of running, but on this occasion it wasn’t to be. Charlie performed flawlessly throughout, surviving contact and a massive debris strike on the #90 Aston Martin that ripped away the bonnet in the dead of night. Ultimately starter motor issue and then a driveshaft failure brought an end to the spirited challenge.
“It wasn’t the result that we’d hoped for as the race through various hurdles, the last of which we fell at in the last hour,” Charlie said. “The team and drivers all showed great courage to keep pushing, even when we were out of contention. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of the season as we’ve not scratched the surface of what we can do as a team.”
Back at Silverstone for round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the team looked set for a famous first win until a stop-go penalty for an earlier pitstop infringement resulted in the runner-up position. Charlie’s mid-race stint saw him again close the gap to the race leader, this time from 16 seconds to one before pitting and handing over to Jonny Adam to complete the race. It was another strong performance, but it was a frustrating second on this occasion.
“We got a bit unlucky with the penalty, it was one of those hit or miss situations,” he said. “We missed the pit line by six seconds and that cost us a 75-second stop-go which really is quite harsh. It shows how much pace we had that we could recover from that to get P2.”
A crash early in the Spa 24 Blancpain race meant that Charlies didn’t get to compete, but he and the team went off to finish the season in Barcelona with a strong run to fifth position.
The WEC programme meanwhile travelled onto Fuji Speedway in Japan where Charlie took the start in damp conditions from fifth position only to find a rival car blocking his pit box early in the race. Charlie was able to more than gain back the time however and handed the Aston Martin over to Salih Yoluc in fourth place. The team went on to make it three runner-up positions from four starts in the championship as he and the team get ready for the final race of the 2018 season in Shanghai.
“Looking back, if three or four things had gone our way we may have had a chance to win but over a six-hour endurance race no one gets it perfect,” he said. “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.”
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.”
It’s a fresh challenge for TF Sport as they head to Fuji Speedway, Japan for the first of the fly-away races on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar this coming weekend (12-14 October).
The team raced at the front on home-soil at Silverstone until a late race penalty, but It’s been a strong campaign to date with two second place finishes in the GTE-Am class.
Now the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE team are aiming to go one better and make it a famous first trip to Asia. With 36 points on the board, TF Sport are fifth in the standings, just one-point shy of the #98 Aston Martin and five behind the #56 Team Project entry.
“We have been bridesmaids twice, third time isn’t lucky, so we’re going to Fuji to win!”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“I’ve been looking forward to this one all season long. It’s our first time competing at Fuji and I think we’ll be strong on track and should be in the running for the race win. On top of that it’s a new experience for us all and we’re really looking forward to the whole experience of racing in Japan.”
“We’ve had good results so far, but we really want to win so we can close down the points difference to the championship leader. I expect we will get to run in varied weather conditions and that’s one aspect that is bound to be unpredictable. I believe we will be strong and if we have some luck on our side, for a change, then we should be good.”
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.”
Oman Racing with TF Sport are set for one last push as the Blancpain GT Series heads to Barcelona, Spain for the fifth and final round of the Endurance Cup this weekend (28-30 September).
Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay are aiming to end the season on a high note having shown great potential but ultimately having yet to reach the top step of the podium in 2018.
The season started with a fifth positions at both Monza and Silverstone, followed by a fourth place at Paul Ricard in the summer. The 24 Hours of Spa unfortunately saw the team forced to retire the #97 Aston Martin Vantage due to accident damage, but the team are confident that they’ll enjoy a change of fortune in Spain.
“I’m really looking forward to Barcelona. We haven’t had the results or luck we deserve this year so really hoping for a strong finish to close out the season. The recent test went well for us so we have high hopes heading into the race.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“It has been a challenging season for all of us in Blancpain this year. We have shown competitive speed in qualifying but have been unable to convert that into better race results. We won the Pro-Am championship in 2017 but unfortunately, we’re out of the running for the Silver Cup this year. We can only go out and try and end the year on a positive note, something I know we’re very capable of doing.”
Ahmad Al Harthy
“I’m looking forward to Barcelona and ending the season with a strong result and a good race. That’s what we all want. We tested there recently and hopefully we can build on that and get a good result to end the season.”
“This year has absolutely flown by, but we haven’t had the results we wanted so we’re looking to go out on a high. Again, it’s a new circuit for me, but the test went well so I’m looking forward to the weekend and hopefully we can finish the season with some silverware.”
TF Sport looked set to take their maiden victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend (18-19 August) at Silverstone, but ultimately the team had to be content with the runner-up position having dominated from the front. The second podium in three starts in the series marked another strong performance, but ultimately, they left their home race disappointed.
Jonny Adam joined Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood in the #90 Aston Martin Vantage for the third round of the championship and along with Salih qualified a solid third in the LMGTE Am class. Salih was charged with the opening stint and mindful that a race can be lost – and not won – on the opening lap, the Turkish driver opted to take a conservative approach at the green flag.
This payed dividends as cars ahead clashed and Salih competed the first lap of the race leading the class, setting the stage for the six hours of racing ahead. Despite losing the lead to the #56 Team Project entry, Salih’s opening stint was strong, keeping the two Dempsey-Proton cars behind under sustained pressure.
Charlie took over from Salih and continued to hold position and despite having to defend, was able to close the gap from 16 seconds to run directly behind the leader before he ended his run. Salih was next up before handing back to Charlie as the duo maintained position and kept the pressure on for the lead.
A safety car intervention in the third stint of the race however proved to be pivotal in the race. The rules dictate that a team cannot pit during the first three laps of the period. TF Sport pitted at the end of the third lap but unfortunately, despite the safety car having crossed the line, the pit remained shut. After a period of consultation, it was deemed that the #90 had entered the pits fractionally too early.
The final third of the race saw Jonny take his double stint, immediately making a great pass for the lead into Brooklands on lap 120. The penalty notice came through at this point and the team opted to take the 75-second stop-go penalty immediately.
Jonny resumed in second position, but any hope of victory had evaporated and despite his best efforts, the team had to accept second position. Whist disappointed with the result, it was TF Sport’s second podium position in three starts and the additional 18 points move the team fifth in the GTE Am standings with five rounds of the Super Season remaining.
“It was a good race from start to finish for us, we executed everything we needed to do and all of us performed at the top of our own FIA driver ratings. We got a bit unlucky with the penalty, it was one of those hit or miss situations. We missed the pit line by six seconds and that cost us a 75-second stop-go which really is quite harsh. It shows how much pace we had that we could recover from that to get P2.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“Ahead of the weekend we would have taken P2 to be honest. We couldn’t have done anything different really, if we’d stayed out and they’d come in, they would have won anyway and we’d have been second; if we’d followed them in we would both have got a penalty and we’d still be second. It’s lucky for the (race winning) #77 car in terms of the championship but overall Salih, Jonny and Charlie were all good, the team performed well, so we can be happy with our performance.”
“It’s hard to be happy with a second position when you should have won. It’s unfortunate for us that the #77 car won the race and we were second as we should have closed the gap to them in the championship.”
“It’s good to get on the podium but it would have been nicer had we won it and it’s a shame as we all had good pace and we all drove well. It’s just one of those things, but other than that it was really nice to get back in the car and we had a good strategy in terms of tyre choice and setup for the race. Looking ahead to Fuji, the track should suit the car, so I’m looking forward to the fly-aways.”
TF Sport are looking forward to its home race this coming weekend (18 – 19 August) as the FIA World Endurance Championship travels to Silverstone for the third round of the 2019/19 Super Season.
As previously confirmed, Jonny Adam joins the team for the next three rounds of the championship with the blessing of Aston Martin Racing, teaming up with Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood in the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
TF Sport have shown great pace so far in the Super Season, finishing a fighting second in round one at Spa-Francorchamps, but at Le Mans, a failure to finish after more than 22 hours of competition proved costly in terms of championship points.
Now the team are all set for Silverstone, the circuit where they won in style earlier this year in British GT and in 2017 took their maiden win in the European Le Mans Series. Silverstone has been kind to TF Sport, with the team now seeking to add to the 18 points secured at Spa and close the gap to the GTE Am class leaders.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out in the GTE to set the record straight after Le Mans. We showed our pace and Spa and Silverstone is our home race for the team. We all know the track very well and we’re looking for a good result.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“I’m looking forward to this one, we have a good chance of success and we’ve always been very good around here. We are not under any illusion it’ll be easy but hopefully we can close the gap this Sunday and get ourselves back in the hunt. It’s along championship ahead – we’ll take the same view in maximising our potential at every round and hopefully we can get back on the top step for the second year running.”
“I’ve had a lot of good results at Silverstone and like the circuit. We have a strong car, strong team, and we do have some catching up to do after the unfortunate DNF at Le Mans. So, the goal here is to get the maximum points possible.”
“I am really looking forward to this weekend and re-joining with everyone TF Sport. It’s our home round at WEC so we’ll be aiming to get a great result. Salih and Charlie have already been on the podium this year at Spa, so we’ll be aiming to get another and kick-start their WEC championship campaign in style.”
Oman Racing with TF Sport were left disappointed after early exit from round four of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, the 24 Hours of Spa. Having made gains early in the race to run fourth, an off three hours into the race effectively ended the podium challenge there and then.
Ross Gunn joined Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, keen to build on the string of points finishes. Qualifying proved to be a bit mixed with the team losing time following contact from the #42 Strakka, whilst Ahmad was at the wheel.
Night practice followed with all four drivers putting in the laps before pitting early to preserve the car. Race day saw Ross take the start from seventh, quickly moving ahead of the #78 Barwell entry to run in sixth before pitting at the one-hour window.
Ahmad took over for the second stint, running as high as fourth as the stops cycled through before taking a comfortable fifth position and finding good pace from the Aston Martin. A full course yellow followed, and Ahmad pitted for fuel and tyres and resumed for another stint before handing over to Euan.
Unfortunately, Euan lost control of the car at turn eight on his out lap, making heavy contact with the barriers. He was able to return the car back to the pits where the team set about repairing the front left corner. It was another mighty effort from the team and Euan was able to get back out, but it was clear that the Aston Martin still had problems.
Euan pitted again and the team set about looking at rear brake callipers before the decision was taken to retire from the race such was the level of damage sustained.
“It’s been a disappointing week for us,” stated TF Sport Director Tom Ferrier. “There’s not much to say about the race. We struggled to find pace from the car all week and then in the race, it finally came to us. Ahmad in particular really found some time in his double stint, but unfortunately we never got to show it in terms of the results.
“Euan made a mistake, but that happens in racing. The team worked hard to try and get the car back into the race, but it just wasn’t our weekend.”
Oman Racing with TF Sport are all set for one of the biggest challenges on the GT calendar, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, round four of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup (26 – 29 July).
As previously announced, Aston Martin Racing factory driver Ross Gunn joins Ahmad Al Harthy, Euan McKay and Charlie Eastwood in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for this event. Currently fourth in the Silver Cup with 35 points, the team are looking for its first podium of the season and to close the deficit to the points leader.
Testing for the Blancpain Series took place in early July with TF Sport running all four drivers and ended with the team fastest of the Silver Cup runners. This bodes well for the team that took Pro-Am title honours at the circuit last year with the runner-up position.
“The test day went well; it’s a very long and difficult track so it’s great to get some mileage in ahead of the big Spa 24-hour race. I think we have a great chance going into the race with a great team and line up around us. I have been told its one of the most difficult 24-hour races in the world, so I can’t wait to give it a go!”
Ahmad Al Harthy
“I’m really looking forward to the biggest race of the year, the one we’ve been waiting for and has been our focus for the last few months. We know how tough it’s going to be, such a challenge for the team and for the drivers. It’s a real highlight in the schedule and we’re aiming for a great result after our title winning run to P2 in 2017.
“We have great memories and it’s definitely something we want to build on this year and – most importantly – that we have a good, safe and clean race and then see where we are after 24 hours!”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“We know this is an especially tricky race and we certainly can’t take anything for granted. We’ve not had the season we’d been hoping for in this championship so far, so we’re really seeking a strong result at Spa. It’s a great to have Ross on board for this race, and we have a great driver line-up, so let’s see if we can bring home decent points from Belgium.”
“I’m really happy with how the test went and I think we’re in a good position going into the race week. It was also my first time at Spa and I loved it, it’s such a great place and steeped with history. The circuit itself was great fun and I can’t wait to get back there.
“The addition of Ross will help us, and he gelled well with the team instantly. I’m thoroughly looking forward to what is undoubtedly the flagship weekend of our season, and I can’t wait to see what we can do.”
“It was great to work with the TF Sport team, Charlie, Euan and Ahmad before the big race at the end of the month. Everything felt familiar from the word go, and from there we worked through our programme. We are feeling confident for Spa 24.”
It wasn’t to be this year for TF Sport in what was its second 24 Hours of Le Mans. From the outset, the team battled on, but early safety car interventions, damage to the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE during the night and finally a mechanical failure resulted in a late race retirement from the toughest event on the calendar.
Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Charlie Eastwood paired up once again in what was the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season. Having finished a fighting second at Spa-Francorchamps, the British-based team believed for a podium position in the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a real possibility.
Lining up sixth in the LMGTE Am class after a strong performance from all three drivers in qualifying, Euan took the start of the race, immediately gaining two positions to run fourth in class. The timing of two safety cars however resulted the team dropping down to eighth following Euan’s first stint and a double from Salih.
Charlie resumed with the team maintaining position into the night until debris from another car struck the Aston Martin ahead of the stop on lap 149, where the team went to work replacing the bonnet. The impact however had damaged the bonnet pins and it took the team several minutes to fit the spare. Undaunted, the team and drivers pushed on only for a starter motor issue to cost further time in the morning; the team having worked around the problem from lap 274.
Having lost time in the pits, a dream result was no longer a possibility and with the race coming to its conclusion, Euan took over for a double stint with 22 hours complete. Unfortunately, he made a small mistake, and this resulted in a high-speed run though the gravel trap and subsequent driveshaft failure. Despite the best efforts of the team, the race was over with less than an hour of running to go.
“It wasn’t the result that we’d hoped for as the race threw various hurdles, the last of which we fell at in the last hour. The team and drivers all showed great courage to keep pushing, even when we were out of contention. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of the season as we’ve not scratched the surface of what we can do as a team.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“What could go wrong went wrong this year which is a huge shame. We lost nearly 30 minutes in the pits with problems and that took us out of contention and we just wanted to bring the car home. Euan made a mistake sadly and this resulted in us not finishing the race. It wasn’t to be, so we look forward to our third visit to Le Mans at the end of the WEC Super Season.”
“Everything went wrong but we kept pushing on. I ran early on in the race and even then it was a real battle on the track and I was caught up in slow zones that cost us over a lap. I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support, sometimes it’s not meant to be.”
“Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it to the finish due to my mistake in the last stint which popped a drive shaft. We were already out of contention having suffered multiple issues. I want to apologise and thank all of the boys at TF Sport who worked tirelessly over the two weeks and deserved a finish. The same goes to my very fast teammates who gave everything despite the setbacks.”