Karting title puts Charlie's F1 dream on track
Northern Ireland has a new European karting champion after Belfast's Charlie Eastwood triumphed at the EuroMax Challenge in France last weekend.
The 18-year-old from the Four Winds area of east Belfast has had an astonishing ten months after race wins in Ireland and America, not to mention being crowned world number one in Portugal in December.
He described being crowned European champion as "pretty amazing" and a goal that he and his team have been working towards all year.
Charlie started racing at the tender age of eight and has been surrounded by the sport his whole life, with both his brother and father also racing.
Describing his family's impressive racing pedigree he said: "Our whole family has raced, I guess you could say it's in our blood."
Prior to the European championships in Salbris, France, Charlie prepared for the race by winning the Irish Karting Grand Prix, held at his home circuit at Nutts Corner.
The win going a long way to help boost the teenager's confidence before the big European race last Sunday.
Once there, the Irishman's greatest challenge came from inside his own team, Strawberry Racing. Team-mates Harry Webb and Kyle Fowlie both stood strong chances of snatching the overall victory from Eastwood, should the Aquinas Grammar School A-level student stumble at the final hurdle.
Eastwood struck an early psychological blow however by setting the fastest lap during timed-qualifying and went on to claim pole position for the first of Sunday's two finals. However, with Webb and Fowlie close behind him on the starting grid, in 4th and 6th respectively, everything had to go to plan.
Eastwood put one hand on the trophy, after taking third place in the first final of the day, but still couldn't afford to relax. Teammate Fowlie had won, and with victory came a good haul of championship points. This meant the Scot had a chance of causing a major shock should Eastwood falter in the title-deciding showdown.
Charlie kept his cool though and finished second in the final race, behind Fowlie, which was enough to secure him the title thanks to his superior points tally.
"It was very tense and competitive, but we were team-mates after all,so you needed to remain professional and focused on delivering the right result for the team, as well as for yourself," said Eastwood.
Speaking about securing yet another trophy Charlie said: "It's a great feeling. The world championship is held over just one race meeting but the Euro is a multi-round championship, so winning it shows that I can both rise to the big, single occasion events and perform consistently over a season."
Next up for the Belfast man is the finale of the British Super One championships, Charlie is currently fourth in the standings after two mechanical failures earlier in the season, all but ended his chances of claiming yet another major triumph.
Charlie hopes to move into senior car racing next year with his end goal being the hallowed asphalt of Formula One. However the level headed young man admits that this dream remains a long way off. Before Charlie moves up to car racing he will have one last chance to defend his World Championship karting crown in November in New Orleans.