World Endurance Championship Imola: Charlie Eastwood relishing his task

The flag drops on the Six Hours of Imola at midday UK time for what is the competition’s first ever visit to the iconic track, which totals just over three miles and consists of 19 turns, including ‘Tamburello’, ‘Tosa’, ‘Acque Minerali’ and perhaps the most famous of them all — ‘Rivazza’.

It is not Eastwood’s first foray to the venue, however, and for that reason the Belfast man is well versed on what is needed to make up places around what is a notoriously tight and narrow circuit.

Indeed, it was one of the American marque’s pre-season test venues with official race partner TF Sport; at the end of the exercise, over 1,875 miles were covered and all-important data obtained.

A strong performance on Sunday is crucial for Eastwood and his team-mates Tom van Rompuy and Rui Andrade after they left the season opener in Qatar with one point for starting from pole position.

Their race ended prematurely when their No.81 machine developed fatal electrical gremlins having earlier required a replacement gear shifter to be fitted — a process that cost them seven laps.

To finish on, or anywhere close to, the podium places at Imola, Eastwood says race management and implementing a strategy that plays to the key strengths of their Z06 GT3.R will be crucial.

“I feel everyone is thinking the same thing in that it will be a super-tough race with traffic as Imola has the characteristics of being one of the more old-school European tracks,” said Eastwood.

“With that, it makes passing between LMGT3 and Hypercars very difficult.

“During testing we found that the lap time between GT3 and Hypercar was significantly smaller than most circuits and the main reason for this is that at Imola, in a GT3 car, you can take a lot of the kerb — but Hypercars cannot.

“There has been a completely new profile of the kerbing around most of the circuit so that the GT3s can get right on top of the kerbs, something the Corvette was handling very well at the test.

“Hypercars are going to struggle to pass the GT cars and that could mean lot of aggression into braking zones.

“It is going to be an interesting race and it’s hard to know how it is going to pan out — but it will be action-packed, with a chance of some collisions between cars in different classes,” he added.

Qualifying to determine starting positions for Sunday’s race is due to take place on Saturday between 1.45pm to 2.55pm, with this happening following the earlier Free Practice Three (10.10am-11.10am)

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