Belfast Telegraph

Eastwood shows his grit to stand on top of Spa podium

 

Charlie Eastwood.
Charlie Eastwood.

By Sammy Hamill

From a pitlane start to a place on top of the podium for Charlie Eastwood in the Spa 24-hour race, the blue riband of the Blancpain European GT Endurance Championship.

The former GB Porsche Carrera Cup champion from Belfast played his part as his TF Sport Aston Martin team came back from the depths of despair when their GT3 Vantage was heavily damaged during practice to win the pro-am category at the Belgian circuit.

Driving alongside Nicki Thiim, Salih Yuloc and Ahmed Al Harthy, Eastwood encountered horrendous conditions which forced the race to be suspended at one point because of heavy rain. They had already had to wait while their Aston Martin was completely rebuilt after Al Harthy crashed on Thursday.

It meant starting from the pitlane as the field of 70-plus cars began the race on Saturday afternoon.

But they battled their way towards the front, taking the lead in the pro-am class after two hours and were as high as 15th at one point.

But pit stops and the constant intervention of the safety car saw them drop back to 22nd as they defended their commanding lead in the pro-am category.

However, it was a disappointing race for Eastwood's fellow Ulster drivers Andrew Watson and Steven Kane.

Indeed, Watson never even made it onto the track after his Garage 59 team-mate Jonny Adam was involved in an early incident which inflicted terminal damage on their Aston Martin.

Kane's Bentley Continental struggled with various technical problems and the treacherous conditions, the Newcastle-based driver describing them as the worst that he had ever encountered.

He and team-mates Jordan Pepper and Jules Gounon finished 49th and 40 laps behind.

Jack Young was robbed of a Renault Clio Open 'double double' at the German Grand Prix weekend at Hockenheim.

Having won both races at the French Grand Prix last month, the Belfast teenager repeated the feat at Hockenheim, qualifying on pole for the two races and taking the chequered flag in both in his Stobart Racing Clio.

However, Young was hit with a harsh 30-second penalty for exceeding track limits during race two yesterday which dropped him back into the pack.

"Gutted doesn't cut it," said the 17-year-old Methodist College student afterwards.

"I feel like I've been robbed of a win because of a penalty I don't think I deserved.

"But the final decision lies with the officials and there is nothing I can do about it."

Meanwhile, another rising Ulster star, James Wilson, who, like Eastwood, was Motorsport Ireland's Young Driver of the Year, scored an outstanding third place in the Jim Walsh Cork Forestry Rally at the weekend.

Wilson, who is a leading contender in the British Junior Championship, was making his first appearance in a four-wheel-drive car, a Hyundai i20, on gravel stages as part of his prize package from Motorsport Ireland.

And while former champion Sam Moffett and last year's Cork winner Barry McKenna fought for the victory over two days, Wilson stayed on their tails, finishing just 25 seconds behind.

McKenna led throughout the first day in his R5 Ford Fiesta but yesterday Moffett clawed back the deficit to win by 12 seconds.

Behind Wilson, another Ulster driver, Cathan McCourt, who won the previous two rounds, finished in fourth place and in the process he moved to the top of the Forest Championship standings in his R5 Fiesta.

Donagh Kelly was fifth in his R5 Skoda Fabia and the other McCourt, brother Conor, completed the top six in the standings in his Fiesta.

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