Belfast Telegraph

Eastwood and Boyd up for Le Mans challenge

 

Charlie Eastwood
Charlie Eastwood

By Sammy Hamill

Charlie Eastwood and Wayne Boyd will play different roles as one of the great motorsport events of the year unfolds this weekend.

The two young Ulster drivers are in Le Mans but only one of them, Eastwood, is scheduled to take part in the legendary 24-hour race around the demanding eight-mile Le Sarthe road course.

Boyd will have to be content with a supporting role, driving in the Michelin Le Mans Cup races which precede the main event on Saturday morning.

Eastwood, Motorsport Ireland's Young Racing Driver of the Year and now fully-fledged member of the official Aston Martin development squad, is back for a second attempt at completing the Le Mans marathon in the TF Sports Vantage GTE he shares with Euan Hankey and Salih Yuloc.

They completed over 300 laps last year before being forced out when the car suffered a broken driveshaft.

This season they are leading the pro-am category in the Blancpain European Endurance Championship and are third in the GTE-am World series with four podium places. And Eastwood has played a starring role, qualifying on pole four times in the European races.

But he says Le Mans offers an entirely different challenge.

"There is a lot more to it than just lap times and racing against the other drivers. In a race this long anything can happen but, with a bit of luck, there is no reason why we can't take a win in our class," he insisted.

Boyd, meanwhile, will have a ringside seat as the big race unfolds after taking part in two Le Mans Cup races for the United Autosports team in the LMP3 prototype Ligier he shares with American Naj Husain.

The Templepatrick driver, an LMP3 winner in the Blancpain series, would dearly love to be joining Eastwood on the 24-hour race grid but said: "Any opportunity to drive round that circuit is one you have to jump at.

"I'm quite lucky to have done 10 laps last year as reserve driver for the LMP2 team so at least it's not totally new to me and I have a good idea of where I'm going.

"Naj and I had a good first race at Paul Ricard at the start of the year and I think we can definitely push for two good results this weekend."

Eastwood is part of a strong contingent from the UK in the main race which sees double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso return in an effort to win outright for a second year in a row.

He is part of an all-conquering Toyota team which is poised to bow out of the World Endurance Championship with another title and another Le Mans victory. The great Spaniard partners Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi and will be especially keen for a second win after failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 - the one leg of motorsport's Triple Crown which still eludes him.

Britain's Mike Conway is part of the crew of the second Toyota LMP1 hybrid along with Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.

He has been on the podium with Toyota twice before, finishing second in both 2016 and 2018, and will be going all out to take his maiden win at La Sarthe this year.

"I want to win Le Mans so badly, but you can't force it," said Conway.

"You've just got to go out there, do your job as well as you can and see where you end up. I hope that we can at least bring it home for another one-two for the team."

Despite Toyota being overwhelming favourites, nothing can be taken for granted in this race. In 2017, despite a full set of Toyota and Porsche works cars being entered, runners from the 'second division' LMP2 class led overall and eventually finished second and third on the podium behind the winning Porsche.

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