Eastwood is all smiles again after career-defining decision
When Charlie Eastwood put a stellar karting career behind him, he was expected to climb the motor racing ladder just as rapidly. It hasn't gone that way.
A World and European champion in karts by the time he was 17, Eastwood found the transition to racing cars a difficult step. For three years he struggled in various single-seater categories, from Formula Four to Formula Renault, showing promise but never quite delivering.
But now he has found his racing feet again in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, a division of racing seemingly far removed from the karts he handled so expertly.
It was his decision to put his name forward for the Porsche scholarship competition last year which transformed Eastwood's fortunes. From a field of 36, he was selected after a series of assessments and tests to benefit from a two-year programme funded by Porsche GB, racing in the Carrera Cup in a car run by the championship-winning Red Line team.
The 2016 target was to win the rookie class in the series which supports the British Touring Car Championship but Eastwood, just turned 21, has exceeded expectations. He is far and away the top rookie but is also third overall in the pro category and, in recent races, has been challenging the experienced reigning champion Dan Cammish, his Red Line team-mate.
He is still chasing his first victory but four second places in a row suggest the top step of the podium is within reach.
Why the change from a struggling single-seater racer to front-running sportscar star? The Carryduff driver says it is a question he has asked himself.
"I don't really know the answer," he says. "I just feel more at home in the Porsche and, surprising as it seems, it is not dissimilar to driving a kart. You use a lot of the same technics, especially with the brakes. I think, as well, the cars are all just about identical and it is down to the driver to make the difference."
From a racing family which runs the Nutts Corner karting centre, Eastwood admits his single-seater plans "went pear-shaped" and he needed to do something different to progress his career.
"When we all start we dream about Formula One so you go into single-seaters," he explained.
"But there are so many variables including which team you are with, how well you understand the technical aspects of setting up the cars and a whole host of other things. The driving is just one part of it.
"I had some good races, including finishing second in the Toyota Grand Prix in New Zealand, but too often I had problems in qualifying and was fighting from the back of the grid.
"Last year we jumped in at the deep end in the Renault Eurocup, one of the most competitive divisions in European racing, and, to be honest, it went pear-shaped.
"I was at a pretty low ebb and decided I needed a complete change of scene. Winning the Porsche Scholarship has changed everything and I'm enjoying racing again."