Racing drivers are never satisfied unless they are winning. Even if, across their first eight races in a brand new discipline, they’ve claimed three podiums and only been outside the top six once…They’re not quite satisfied.
Those are the statistics that leap at you from Charlie Eastwood’s first half-a-term as the Carrera Cup GB Scholar. He’s only been beaten in the Rookie classification twice. However, one word to describe these statistics in not forthcoming.
“I am a little bit mixed emotions. It has been a good start but we are learning every race so there is more to come.” Surely though this pace is a pleasant surprise, as he makes the transition from single-seaters to the unique Type 991 GT3 Cup?
“From pre-season we were always there or there abouts. At the World Endurance Championship support meeting (where Eastwood claimed two podiums), I thought I had made a jump closer to the front two guys. Qualifying has hampered me a little bit in the last two rounds, with issues in traffic. I am getting quicker every race and the first year was about learning and hopefully winning the Rookie championship.”
So far, so good then. However, the Carrera Cup GB has not always drawn positive comments on the amount of real dicing that occurs on track. Some see it as more of a qualifying formula, where your weekend results are dictated by your success (or lack thereof) in qualifying. “I have found it good to get back to racing, away from the single-seaters and the aero. The big thing for me was when you are in a train how little you can see. If you are right behind it is quite hard to see the apex. You are constantly judging from the guy in front what you are going to do. I am definitely enjoying the racing a bit more than the single-seaters, you can be a bit more forceful.”
Since the time of this interview, Eastwood joined eleven other British competitors in the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup support race for the British Grand Prix. Before the event, he confessed he was clueless as to which way the meeting would go. “I have literally no idea with Supercup, whether I’m going to be first or last. I can’t have any idea. I need to go and do what I do and sort of try and get the most out of the car and the result will come with it no matter where it is.”
He continued, “It is going to be tough, they are at the absolute top of their game. A big challenge. It is my first year and only four meetings in the car. I’m doing it really to see in a year or two’s time where I need to be, in order to be competitive in the Supercup.”
Perhaps the best anecdote to describe the transition, “It is like being a tennis player and going to play badminton, you don’t know how well you’re going to do.”
The result, as it happened, was a stunning tenth out of thirty competitors. As the former- BRDC F4 racer himself said, “With Supercup you really only get one chance and if you miss it, it’s nearly your weekend over. In Supercup even when you’re battling for twentieth it is very competitive, everyone can roughly do the same pace.”
Tenths is a key word when looking at the final four meetings of the 2016 Carrera Cup GB season. “We are talking tenths of a second, to the front guys. They’re such small margins. Of course there will be times where you might find that little bit of pace. I think it will start closing up a bit. The second year guys are coming to the peak of what they want to learn whereas the first year guys are still learning all the time.”
As for his own ambitions for the last four meetings. “The goal is to be on race winning pace. The second and third year guys, they get a lot out of the car every lap. At times I’ve shown the pace is very strong. We are just on the edge of getting a win in. I am getting more used to the car. I have learned so much in the first four rounds, so I should learn even more in the last four.”
The suggestion that a heated title battle could allow those slightly further back to claim success isn’t dismissed, nor celebrated. “You have to be in the right place for that (pouncing on contact). Ultimately I don’t want to get my first win in the class through others crashing. I really want to show the pace that we have.”
Experience comes in other forms too, and as the Scholar, Charlie has certainly enjoyed some unique moments this season. “I couldn’t ask to be in a better position at this stage in my career. When they told me I was going to Goodwood at the start of the year I was so excited and when I actually got there it is just a different league. You’re around so many greats and so many great cars and to be able to go up the hill in the Cup car and give it a good go at it. A weekend I definitely won’t forget.”
Finally then we return to the one word. “Happy,” is Eastwood’s offering. So he should be. It is easy for a driver to become disheartened when they’re not winning, however Charlie Eastwood has made his mark in the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup GB. His potential is clear and as for whether he can win a race before the end of this year or not, it looks more than likely. A championship challenge next year has sort of already started with this learning experience.
The last words to the man himself. “ I am happy with that start but I always want better and I always want to win so you’re never pleased until you are winning. But when you look at it and see how many variables we are up against I am happy with the first half.”