Belfast’s Charlie Eastwood has already taken top honours in his class at two of endurance racing’s most difficult events and this evening his quest to complete the triple crown takes him to America.
Eastwood has enjoyed victories at the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France and the final act of this elusive trilogy is the Daytona 24 Hours which gets underway at 6.40pm.
This is the 26-year-old’s second consecutive visit to the International Speedway in Florida. Only 12 months ago, as part of the TF Sport Aston Martin squad, he crossed the line seventh in the GTD class.
It’s all change this time around, however, as he’ll represent the NorthWest Aston Martin Racing Team and share the drive with Nicki Thiim, David Pittard and 2017 GTE AM World champion, Paul Dalla Lana.
This is the first opportunity Eastwood has had to work with the hand-picked line-up but confidence levels in the camp have been fuelled by how well preparations have gone both on- and off-track.
“The expectations are very high going into the weekend,” said Eastwood. “The line-up is super strong with three factory drivers and also Paul. On top of that, the car is run by the factory Aston Martin team so, on paper, we’ve a really good chance and in this race it’s about being there in the last four hours.
“There are a number of important technical requirements teams have to comply with here, such as tyre pressure and tyre camber, so that changed the car’s baseline set-up quite a bit, but we have spent what time we have had in testing fine-tuning things and have ended up in a good place.
“Everything has gone really well, so we have a chance to be right at the front come the end of the 24-hour race.”
Eastwood accepts that while an outright podium is a big ask against a 61-car field comprising lither and faster LMP2 and LMP3 cars, top GTD honours is an achievable target, particularly as he knows the track more intimately compared to 2021 and feels at one with the Vantage GT3 sports car.
“Winning the Daytona 24 Hours is a huge bucket list item for me,” he said. “In endurance racing some people say the triple crown is to win at Spa, Le Mans and Daytona and I’d love to be able to do that.
“OK, maybe not in the overall classification but if we can do it in the GTD class it would be still quite an achievement. We tried last year and didn’t succeed but this time I have an even stronger chance. It would be amazing to add it to the CV.”