After leading a race at Snetterton and taking podium finishes, Abbie was looking for her first wins of the year to hopefully move up from fourth in the championship. But she’d only visited the circuit once in the past seven years before the weekend so her first priority would be setting up the car and getting used to the circuit in Friday testing.
Initially the car was suffering badly from understeer so the setup was altered to try and correct this. By halfway through the day, they had got the handling perfect and could work on other things to improve the car. Abbie’s family team only has four members, with just two working on the car including her dad Paul, a former racer himself, so to be competitive amongst professional teams running multiple cars is very impressive.
By the end of the day, Abbie and her AE Racing team felt they had a great handling and quick car around the undulating Anglesey circuit and looked forward to the rest of the weekend.
Saturday would see Practice, Qualifying and the first of three races this weekend and with dry sunny weather conditions were perfect. By the end of practice, Abbie set a 1:19.668, slightly slower than her best time in testing but an impressive 6 tenths of a second in front of her rivals.
Qualifying was next and with a few adjustments to perfect things, Abbie went out and set fastest time once more to take pole for the race. Her time of 1:19.660 was again three tenths of a second ahead of second placed Paul Sheard.
Race one was held last thing on Saturday and although pole was on the inside line for the first corner, the second corner then went the other direction, putting Abbie at risk of being passed if Sheard next to her made as good a start.
As the lights changed, Sheard did indeed get a good start and the two of them approached the second corner side by side. Sheard then had the inside line and so got ahead, in the process, Abbie had to run slightly wider allowing Tom Roche through into third. But one of the other cars had failed on the line and in a late call, the safety car was scrambled. The Land Rover Safety car emerged with no warning as the field approached the end of the first lap. Taken by surprise, Sheard and Roche slammed on the brakes in avoidance. Abbie too, hit the brakes but was tapped from behind and took to the grass to avoid a pile up. The race was then red flagged as the field were completely mixed up. This meant a new start with Abbie back on pole meaning she would no longer have to fight back from third. Abbie did later say that she had expected to retake the lead anyway.
On the second start Abbie this time got away just as well but Sheard didn’t and was unable to draw alongside, leaving Abbie to take the lead. Behind her, Sheard, Roche and Comber got into a fight for second, allowing Abbie to pull away into a big lead. She’d never look like being caught after that and won by 5.835 seconds taking the point for fastest lap in the process! Her main rival Tom Roche was second with Paul Sheard in third. Mike Comber was disqualified from the results after a technical infringement.
There was a lot of rain on the track overnight before race two and three on Sunday and with the remains of hurricane Bertha forecasted to drop more rain on the track, there was a chance that the second race day could be washed out. This meant a huge gamble for Abbie and the team on what setup to use. Light rain started to fall a few minutes before race two and so a different setup would be needed. On the green flag laps before the start, Abbie was trying to work out how much grip she had and where she could and couldn’t push. Again the start would be critical and with the mega quick Tom Roche alongside, Abbie knew things would be tough.
They were neck and neck off the line and through the first corner and into the hairpin Tom tried to dive down the inside. Abbie went deeper into the corner and tried to power through the outside line. Despite a “love tap” from Roche, Abbie came out ahead. In fact Roche’s tap slowed him down enough that Sheard passed him. Those two then battled for second allowing Abbie to pull away in the lead once more, helped by the rain easing off. It was up to eight seconds at one point but the rain returned towards the end so Abbie backed off slightly to make sure nothing went wrong. This time Abbie won by 7.542 seconds from Roche and Sheard, She now wanted to make it a hat trick in race three at the end of Sunday.
She once again got a great start as the final race got underway but Roche had clearly been making improvements to his car and this time he hung onto the back of Abbie, slip streaming her on the straight and making several attempts to pass. Roche could gain and try to pass Abbie on the top half but Abbie could pull a gap again on the bottom half. She need to try and pull enough ahead to prevent him from getting a “tow” from her car on the straight. By lap seven she managed to get the gap she needed and started to pull away once again. By the end she won by 1.713 second with Mike Comber taking third. Abbie again took fastest lap and the point that goes with it. Abbie was really happy with her weekend’s racing;
“I can’t believe it, I’ve waited so long to finally win a race this season and three come at once! The icing on the cake was claiming fastest laps in all three races too. A perfect end to a perfect weekends racing! A huge thank you to the Team- my Mum, Dad and Chris, and my sponsors Mike Oughtred at Oughtred & Harrison LTD, Martin Dooner at Mx5 city.com for sticking by me and not giving up!
Let’s hope that we have finally cracked how to set the car up and fingers crossed we can look forward to more wins in the future.”
Abbie now leads the championship after a great weekend’s racing in Wales but after dropped scores are taken into account she is only six points ahead of Roche and with only 75 points separating the top five, there is still all to play for with six races spread over 3 meetings to come. She also set a new Mazda Mx5 Mk3 lap record for the Anglesey coastal circuit, meaning it really was a perfect weekend for her.
Abbie is looking forward to the final part of the season. Oulton Park is next at the end of August followed by Rockingham in September and then the season finale at Donington on October 18th and 19th. Abbie has had good results at all these circuits in the past so hopes are high for a great end to the season and a shot at taking the 2014 title By Marc Waller