Charlie’s midnight charge

Belfast racer Charlie Eastwood and his teammates took a hard charging third place in the ‘Into the night’ Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km, the latest round of the Blancpain GT Series.

The circuit at Le Castellet, near Marseille, which also hosts the French Grand Prix, is one of the most demanding on the calendar, with long straights leading into heavy braking areas and high speed corners such as the infamous Signes curve.

Charlie set the fastest Pro-Am qualifying time in the Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3. This was the team’s third successive pole position.

In the race, which began in the hot Mediterranean sunshine but finished in midnight darkness, Charlie’s teammates Salih Yoluc and Ahmad Al-Harthy tackled the opening stints.

Charlie faced a tough challenge when he took over the Vantage as a couple of unscheduled pitstops had dropped Ahmad down to third place, some distance from the lead group.

A long double stint for Charlie saw him chasing down Mercedes-AMG driver (and former British Touring Car Winner) Tom Onslow-Cole to close the gap and secure a strong final podium place after six hours of hard racing.

Charlie said: ‘After the unscheduled pitstops we still had some damage on the car affecting balance and grip. Nevertheless, the Aston Martin felt amazing and I was able to close the gap on the overall leaders showing we have good race pace and we now lead the championship. All in all it was a good weekend.’

There was little time to celebrate the midnight success as Charlie faced another 1000km challenge immediately after the race. Testing for his biggest race of the year, the Le Mans 24 hours, began at 9am the following morning. An early morning dash to the legendary Sarthe circuit in North West France saw the 23 year old behind the wheel of the FIA World Endurance Championship Aston Martin Vantage GTE just hours after standing on the podium in the south of France.

Adam Arbon