November the seventh. Can you remember where you were that night? For most, the answer is probably “not really”. For Charlie Eastwood and the Porsche Carrera Cup GB paddock, the answer is “certainly“.
Porsche’s annual awards evening becomes particularly fascinating every two-years. In 2015 it was once again time for a winner to be named, the driver who would carry the title of Porsche Scholar for the proceeding two seasons.
That name was Charlie Eastwood. In an interview with TCF a couple of weeks before the result was announced, the young Irishman told us, “I would love to get to become part of the Porsche motor sport family and try and win Le Mans with Porsche.”
Eastwood is now definitely part of that illustrious family. The Autosport International Show really kicks off the motor sport year and for Eastwood it was one of the first big outings as the new scholar.
We start though, by looking back a couple of months to that November night. Maybe a bit earlier. “I left everything on the line on the track and in the gym on the assessment day,” explains Eastwood and you sense how important the effort put into the Silverstone based evaluation day was. “I thought I had done everything I could and if I didn’t get it, there simply must have been a better candidate for the scholarship.”
As it turned out, there wasn’t. “On the night it was pretty nail-biting,” he confirms. The scholarship was the last announced award, a nice tension builder for anyone who wasn’t in contention. For those that were, Sam Brabham, Hannah Pym and Ashley Crossey alongside Eastwood, it made for a difficult evening of waiting and diminished appetite.
“Obviously I was ecstatic on the night, the wait was worthwhile,” Eastwood continues with a smile. He goes on to describe the “relief” of the rest of the evening, following a tense few weeks. Since then, with one-season drawing to a close, engagements for a man who will be much in demand over the next two seasons, have been surprisingly limited.
“Autosport is the start of most people’s years and it is going to start ramping up from here,” the ex single-seater man continues, and post ASI we can expect some significant Porsche news in the not to distant future.
On Josh Webster, the outgoing scholar? “They are big boots to fill, champion in the first year and then really competitive in 2015.” All of Eastwood’s Porsche experience to date has been blighted by typical British weather but with some drier testing, he will certainly be a driver to watch among a grid likely to be stacked with talent.
Adapting quickly will be key admits Eastwood, as he converts to GTs from a single-seater and karting background. Redline Racing will be looking after the car for 2016, and Eastwood seems enthusiastic about the team running the car and the team at Porsche running the scholarship programme.
Genuinely excited to be racing on one of the biggest platforms in modern motor sport and on the Grand Prix circuit at Silverstone, “WEC at Silverstone will be unbelievable,” exclaims an enthusiastic Charlie.
“Snetterton. I really like it, it is a tricky track to get right,” is Eastwood’s answer to the question of his favourite UK circuit, a nice alternative answer to the usual suspects of Brands Hatch GP or Oulton Park. Knockhill and Croft are both vital circuits for the new scholar, as both are venues he is yet to have raced at.
We can conclude on the topic of the TOCA package and the different kind of dedicated and large motor sport following it attracts compared with most other national events. “When I go to the BTCC weekends myself, there is a great atmosphere, there is a lot of fans who absolutely love motor sport. It is like a funfair walking through the paddock. It is a massive buzz and I cannot wait to become part of it.”
That last sentence really reveals something that comes across clearly when you talk to Eastwood. He is one of the most enthusiastic young-guns in modern motor racing and just seems to really enjoy what he is doing. In a sport often full of disappointed drivers who were forced to abandon F1 dreams and never seem to get their motivation back, Charlie Eastwood is a breath of fresh-air.