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Eastwood delighted with late victory

 

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Winning trio: Charlie Eastwood (left) celebrates with Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc at the Circuit of the Americas

Winning trio: Charlie Eastwood (left) celebrates with Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc at the Circuit of the Americas

Winning trio: Charlie Eastwood (left) celebrates with Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc at the Circuit of the Americas

Charlie Eastwood celebrated his first appearance as a full Aston Martin factory driver with a third World Endurance Championship win at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Eastwood, who signed a multi-year AMR contract at the end of last year after being part of the British manufacturer's Junior Driver programme, shared a nail-biting LMGTE pro-am victory with team-mates Jonny Adam and Salih Yuloc, the young Belfast man snatching the lead in the final 20 minutes.

Entrusted with the last stint of the six-hour race, he brought their TF Sport Vantage GTE to the finish ahead of the identical factory-entered Aston Martin of Ross Gunn, Paul Dalla Lana and Darren Turner, winning by just over three seconds.

"It was so close between us and the AMR car all day," said Eastwood.

"The battle at the end was intense for more than 20 minutes. I needed to make the move quickly to calm down the team in the garage. The final run to the flag felt like it took forever."

It was an important win for the team, coming on the back of their first non-finish of the split 2019-20 season at Bahrain before Christmas.

They had previously won in China and Japan, and the Texas victory moves them to second in the standings with three rounds remaining.

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The see-saw battle all came down to Eastwood's final stint when he took over from Adam with Gunn six seconds ahead.

"We were on a slightly differing strategy and so the AMR car kept jumping us in the pitstops," explained Eastwood.

"Tom (TF team boss Ferrier) came onto the radio and asked me to do qualifying laps every lap to close the gap.

"I kept chasing and chasing, and when you actually get there, the dirty air in the high-speed corners makes it a struggle.

"I was just waiting for my moment to get Ross, and when he went defensive at the end of the back straight and into the hairpin I made my move.

"It was a bit of a squeeze, but we made the corner and it felt so good."

His fellow Ulster driver Andrew Watson finished sixth in the Gulf Racing Porsche he shares with Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker, the trio, who had struggled with technical problems during practice, losing fifth in the dying minutes of the race to the rival Proton-Dempsey Porsche.

The race was won overall by the LMP1 Rebellion team of Gustavo Menezes, Norman Nato and Bruno Senna with Toyotas second and third.

The LMP2 category went to the United Autosports team Phil Hanson, Paul di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque.

Another Ulster driver, Wayne Boyd, is part of their European Le Mans squad.

Eastwood and Watson will be back in America for round six of the series, the 1000 Miles of Sebring in Florida in mid-March.


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