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Eastwood inches from first endurance race win



Edged out: Charlie Eastwood

Edged out: Charlie Eastwood

Edged out: Charlie Eastwood

Charlie Eastwood came within a whisker of a first win on his debut in the World Endurance Championship at the daunting Spa circuit in Belgium.

After six hours of racing Eastwood and his TF Sport team-mates Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc were beaten over the finishing line in the GTE-AM category by two-tenths of a second!

On a day when Eastwood shared the same track with double F1 World champion Fernando Alonso, who led the Toyota LMP1 team to outright victory in the opening round of the WEC series, the Ulsterman made an impressive first appearance in the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage, leading the GTE division during his opening stint.

A delay in the pits during the changeover to Yoluc saw them drop behind the works Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy. From there they chased the leaders down, Eastwood helping to claw back a 36-second deficit until Hankey and Lamy took the chequered flag just inches apart.

"What a debut, what a race," said the 2017 Porsche Carrera champion. "The whole team did an amazing job and to finish just 0.2 of a second off first after our earlier delay was incredible."

At Brands Hatch fellow Ulsterman Andrew Watson, driving for the Y Technology BMW team, finished first and then second in the Silver driver division in the two Blancpain European GT sprint races.

Meanwhile, Robert Barrable's R5 Ford Fiesta may have been outpaced by the WRC Subaru of Manus Kelly on the second leg of the Rally of the Lakes but the Dublin driver still left Killarney last night with a maximum points haul in the Irish Tarmac Championship.

On the faster Sunday stages, double Donegal International winner Kelly was able to wipe out a 28-second overnight deficit and power his way to victory but with his Subaru ineligible for points it was Barrable who closed in on championship leader Josh Moffett.

Winner of the first two rounds, Moffett's rally was plagued with brake issues for his Fiesta and could only bring it home sixth.

Desi Henry was the top Ulster finisher, taking third place in his Skoda Fabia on his first trip to the Kerry stages, the Portglenone driver holding off the Fiesta of reigning champion Sam Moffett by 22 seconds.

Jonny Greer finished strongly with fastest time on the final stage to take fifth in his Fiesta ahead of Josh Moffett, and Eugene Donnelly had his best result to date with his new R5 Hyundai in seventh.

Dave Uren and Trevor Willis shared the honours in rounds three and four of the British Hillclimb Championship at Craigantlet but, despite near perfect conditions, neither could better the 2016 record set by Scott Moran.

Uren in his Gould GR55 won the first of the top 10 run-offs in 40.13 seconds with Will Hall second fastest and Wallace Menzies third. Willis was only fourth in his OMS.

But the 2017 winner turned things around in the second run-off, becoming the only driver to dip below the 40-second mark at 39.36. Menzies was second and shares the overall lead in the championship with Willis. Best of the local drivers was Richard McGimpsey in his RMG Turbo, recording his third successive win in the Northern Ireland Championship.

Belfast Telegraph