Belfast Telegraph

Eastwood hoping to lap up a Chinese takeaway

Motorsport

Charlie Eastwood
Charlie Eastwood

By Sammy Hamill

Having loved that winning feeling in Japan, Charlie Eastwood wants to enjoy it again as the World Endurance Championship moves to China.

Eastwood and his TF Sport Aston Martin team-mates Salih Yoluc and Jonny Adam won for the first time at the Fuji Speedway, dominating the race from pole position, and are now major contenders for the LMGTE-AM category in the WEC series which is split over 2019-20.

This weekend they switch to the Chinese Grand Prix circuit in Shanghai and Eastwood, who has already been part of the successful TF Sport team in the Blancpain European GT Championship, is optimistic they can continue their Japanese form.

"After a dominant performance in Fuji, where we won by over a lap, we want to carry that momentum into China. Of course now we have success ballast, which will make it more difficult, but hopefully the track should suit the new Aston Martin GTE."

Eastwood is joined on the Shanghai grid by fellow Ulsterman Andrew Watson, who, although he is also part of Aston Martin's junior development programme, has been given permission to switch to the Gulf Porsche team for the World Championship.

He and team-mates Mike Wainwright and Ben Barker just missed out on a podium finish in the first round at Silverstone but were off the pace in Japan.

They aim to bounce back in Shanghai, where the Porsche team finished runners-up in 2017.

Meanwhile, Callum Devine is preparing for his Hyundai debut in the final round of the European Rally Championship in Hungary this weekend.

The young Derry driver was one of the stand-out performers in this year's Irish Tarmac Championship, finishing third behind Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher in his privately-run R5 Ford Fiesta. Now with the backing of the Motorsport Ireland Academy and Hyundai Customer Racing, he has been given the chance to move up to European level.

Devine has had two days of testing in an R5 Hyundai i20 to adjust to Hungarian conditions and is happy with the car - "very similar to my Fiesta" - and says the tarmac stages are like a "wet, slippery Irish rally" in the early spring or autumn.

Andrew Johns of Hyundai Racing said they are taking a close interest.

"Having Callum in the car for Rally Hungary is a good opportunity for both him and Hyundai," he said. "For Callum it's an opportunity to show his capabilities in front of an international audience, but it's also a chance to have an i20 R5 competing in the European Championship."

The rally, which will see Britain's Chris Ingram, reigning champion Alexey Lukyanuk or Lukasz Habaj take the 2019 title, begins with a qualifying stage today before the action begins tomorrow.

One of the Irish events Devine starred on this year was the Easter Stages where he challenged Breen for much of the way. Now, according to a promo video on the Ulster Automobile Club's Facebook page, it will retake its original Circuit of Ireland name in 2020.

The title was passed to Bobby Willis a decade ago and he revitalised the event, raising it to European Championship status and pursuing a place in the World Championship.

That remains the hope but via Rally GB, Britain's round of the series.

Belfast Telegraph

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