This weekend saw one the most challenging 24 hour races in recent history, as the Blancpain GT field tackled the 24 Hours of Spa under treacherous conditions. In a wet-washed race littered with safety cars and red flag periods, Infinity Driver, Charlie Eastwood proved his talents, taking victory in GT AM Class alongside his teammates. Charlie’s team success, from a pit lane start, was the first 24 hour victory for TF Sport and the first ever class win for Aston Martin Racing.
From rocky beginnings, the outlook was bleak for the team when an unfortunate crash in Free Practice saw the car in ruins. But with the benefit of British GT taking place the weekend before, a spare car chassis lay in wait, offering a glimmer of hope for the team. From there the TF Sport mechanics had all hands on deck, swapping out the engine and piecing together the car from scratch. Missing qualifying, it was a race against time to make it out in time for Night Practice to avoid any additional penalty to their race. In a massive effort, they managed to get out and run their first laps in the dark, the car prepped and ready for lights out on Saturday afternoon.
“The car was completely destroyed in a crash, we weren’t sure if we were even going to be able to race or not. The team did an incredible job getting us ready to race, by Saturday morning, the team had worked so hard that they felt like they’d already ran a 24 hour race, so we were really on the back foot, with hardly any spares and were challenged by tiredness already. We had to start from the pit lane, so we had a big job ahead of us, but we put our heads down and moved our way forward within the first 6 hours.”
Starting from the pit lane, having not taken part in qualifying, Charlie and the guys knew they had a mountain to climb, but were determined to progress and reward the team for their hard work. With points awarded for each of the 6 and 12 hour marks, their initial target was to maximise their strategy to find their way to the front of class. Tackling everything the race had to throw at them, through the weather and safety car periods, they took the lead by the 6 hour point.
Moving into the night, Charlie took the wheel of the #97 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 for two phenomenal stints, battling the limited visibility he put all his experience into practice and showcased his skill in difficult conditions. By the early hours, the conditions had worsened to the point that a red flag was called. Just adding to the challenge, the race eventually resumed with 5 hours left to run, with the home stretch was in sight, they had to keep out of trouble and time their pit stops to perfection.
“The race threw everything at us, I had a double stint in the night in the wet, on slicks, which is probably one of the most difficult stints I’ve ever done, battling to keep the car on the track. From there the race was absolutely perfect, every tyre strategy, every driver stint, not a single touch of damage, we had the least pit stops of the whole 72 car grid. That’s what makes the difference, that’s what helped us get the result.”
As a dramatic and demanding 24 hours drew to a close, we joined the team in celebrating a dream result, Charlie and the team headlining an incredible comeback story to take the GT AM Class victory. On the way to securing maximum points for their championship campaign, the Aston Martin Racing Junior also helped claim a series of defining victories for the TF Sport and Aston Martin alike.
Reflecting on his achievement, Charlie recapped:
“To take the win felt incredible, it was an amazing result for the team, their first 24 hour win, my first win with the team, and to top it off, Aston Martin’s first win with the new Vantage and their first ever class win at Spa.
What started as a very difficult week, to finish on such a high was amazing. We’re now 16 points ahead going into the last round at Barcelona, so it’s looking good for the end of the season.“
Director of Infinity Sports Management, Harry Soden added:
“What a fantastic job by Charlie and the whole team at TF Sport. Had you asked me on Thursday night, if this was possible, I’m not sure what I would have said! The team did an unbelievable job to change cars after one of Charlie’s teammates wrote the car off in practice, meaning they had to start from the pit lane. This also puts them in the lead of the championship going in to the last round at Barcelona.”