Eastwood's eyes on Porsche title in Brands Hatch finale
Charlie Eastwood felt hard done by when he was handed a 10-place grid penalty for what was deemed an over aggressive defence of his lead in round 11 of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Knockhill in Scotland.
He collided with the Carrera of reigning champion Dan Cammish, sending it into the barriers as they sprinted for the finish line. To some it was a racing incident but, nevertheless, Eastwood was punished and his position of Cup leader threatened with an additional three-point deduction.
The 22-year-old Belfast driver insists he tried to avoid hitting his Redline Racing team-mate and appealed against the penalty.
"It was an unfortunate incident between myself and Dan," he explained.
"Afterwards we went through my on-board and everyone could see that I came out of the corner turning right and then, as soon as I looked in my mirror and saw Dan, I started to turn left and tried to avoid contact."
He wasn't happy when the stewards rejected his appeal, but in a strong damage limitation drive next time out at Silverstone he fought his way from 13th to fourth and, allied to another third place in the second of the two races at the Northamptonshire circuit, Eastwood kept himself top of the standings going into this weekend's finale at Brands Hatch, where he will attempt to add the overall Porsche championship to the rookie title he won in 2016.
However, although two-time champion Cammish is effectively out of the hunt after his Porsche caught fire at Silverstone, Eastwood is set for a two-race shoot-out with Dino Zamparelli, who capitalised on the Ulsterman's problems to score back-to-back wins.
Aside from the grid penalty, Eastwood also had to contend with a mysterious handling issue, which defied all efforts to resolve.
"We struggled with the car's handling since early in the week, and we turned it upside down trying to find the issue, but when we got in to qualifying on Saturday it felt like the problem was still there," he said.
"It was very frustrating as we know it's not a set-up problem but something fundamental inside the car. In the circumstances, to come away with a fourth and a third was a good reward.
"Fingers crossed the Redline guys will have got to the bottom of the problem and we will be good to go this weekend."
He and Zamparelli are now virtually neck-and-neck - Eastwood just four points ahead with a potential 40 at stake in the Brands Hatch rounds, which take place on Sunday as part of the British Touring Car TV package, in which Colin Turkington will be bidding for a third title.
It also features the final rounds of the UK Ginetta Junior Championship but it seems that Daniel Harper's brave efforts may come up short.
Like Eastwood, the 16-year-old Dromore High School student won the rookie title last year and has been a race winner again this season with the Ulster-owned Douglas Motorsport team. But a hat-trick of victories at Silverstone - the first time it has been achieved - have taken Tom Gamble clear at the top of the points table.
Seb Priaulx and Harper are next in line but, barring Gamble having a disastrous weekend, they have too much ground to make up in the final races of the season.