Abbie Eaton talks about GT’s and TV

Abbie Eaton (Photo by Marc Waller)

Abbie Eaton (Photo by Marc Waller)Abbie Eaton is racing in the British GT championship for 2016 with Ebor GT running a Maserati Gran Turismo, we recently caught up with her ahead of the second round at Rockingham;

GR: Hi Abbie, it must be good to have a full season deal sorted especially with such an exciting car?
Abbie: It’s great to have a season sorted in a championship that I’ve been trying to get into since 2010 and especially in such a unique car, being the only one being used in the UK.

GR: How did the deal happen? You raced against your team mate last year didn’t you?
Abbie: Ebor GT had been running Marcus Hoggarth [Abbie’s co-driver] in GT Cup last year. Having raced in GT Cup last year we crossed paths a few times as both Team and Driver are based local to my hometown. Adrian [The team boss] had mentioned he was enquiring about running a Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 with the view of using it in British GT or GT Cup and this just sounded like a great opportunity.

GR: You’ve now had your first race weekend, How was it? Did things go how you hoped?
Abbie: The first weekend was always going to be a glorified test session for us due to our trials and tribulations pre-season. We had the usual teething issues as is normal with a new car but we only received the car a few weeks before the season started so managed about 20 laps in the car pre-season!

So Brands Hatch was our first real time in the car, I came into the weekend hoping to just finish the race and gain valuable track time, but actually she performed much better than expected straight out of the box. There’s so much more potential to come from both the car and myself (and Marcus) and also the team are new to the series so we’re on the back foot with everything really. I’m aiming for podiums as the season progresses.

We potentially could have been challenging for 3rd position at Brands Hatch but a big mistake from the team lead to us losing several places. Frustrating but lessons learnt and we are all here to learn this year, but it doesn’t stop me wanting to win from the off.

GR: How long do you think it’ll take before you’re both getting the maximum from the car?
Abbie: I think Silverstone should be a good place for us to really push and put the first half of the season to good use. We have test days booked in before Oulton Park in which we want to develop the car, so potentially Oulton could be a positive round however I think the Ginettas will be extremely quick around there.

GR: Does your experience last season with the GT Cup BMW help with getting to grips with the Maserati?
Abbie: The huge size of the BMW M3 has prepared me well for the Maserati, as it is pretty large for a GT4 car and also very heavy, so when the car starts to slide it feels fairly second nature as opposed to jumping out of an MX5.

GR: Last season proved to be difficult for you, although it was through no fault of your own, it must’ve been frustrating to have so many set-backs?
Abbie: Last season was the worst year of racing in terms of finishes. It’s hugely frustrating when the other driver keeps throwing the car off the circuit and bringing a mangled piece of metal back to the garage for me to drive (or not as the case was a few times!) however that is all part and parcel of endurance two driver racing.

Abbie Eaton (Photo by Marc Waller)I worked out post-race season that if my co driver had finished 4th in his side of the races then with my results combined we would have been challenging for the championship title.

However to achieve the results I did with the car, winning at Silverstone and finishing on the podium at every round is, when you think about it, not too bad a GT season debut.

GR: Do you see GTs and Sports cars as a long term plan or would you prefer touring car racing?
Abbie: I would love to race in BTCC but it’s got a glass ceiling, there’s nowhere to go after it, no ladder to work up. So with a sensible career head, GT racing is definitely the route to go down. GT racing is going from strength to strength and that’s shown in the quality and quantity of drivers, manufacturers and teams in British GT.

GR: British GT often has more fans attending than some of the races you’ve done in the past especially with the autograph sessions, do you enjoy meeting up with fans?
Abbie: Yes it’s great to see the support up close and also how many people love the Maserati! I just can’t wait till she’s challenging for podiums and hopefully wins – I think she’s more than capable of it.

GR: People will have seen you recently on ITV’s Drive, how did that come about?
Abbie: I was asked to be one of the Driver Coaches whose task it was to train a celeb to take on all the challenges the show offered. Of course I jumped at the chance as it’s a great opportunity and was brilliant fun to do. Everyone was lovely and we became one big racing/filming family.

GR: Sounds like it was as much fun as it was working!
Abbie: The show as great fun to film. You don’t get to see in the episodes the amount of banter and fun we all had with each other. Even on the horrendous muddy buggy days, sat waiting to take on the obstacles, Johnny Vegas and driver coach Jade Edwards were launching big mud balls at Stephen [Professor Green] and myself.

GR: Did you get on with Professor Green in reality or were things sometimes a bit awkward the show suggested during the buggy rounds?
Stephen and I got on well and as the series progressed he really came on leaps and bounds. There was frustration at the start as he was one of the least experienced drivers on the grid but once he got his head into what he needed to do and take instruction onboard he performed well! It’s not all roses when instructing, sometimes you need to be firm and say it how it is for things to sink in. Every driver coach had their little telling’s off with their celebs, its part and parcel of it.

GR Back to racing, it’s Rockingham this weekend, what are your aims for this particular meeting?
The aim for this weekend is to again gain some valuable mileage in the car. Due to the close proximity to Round one we weren’t able to do any testing beforehand so would like to pick up from where we left off at Brands. Some wet weather this weekend would be great!

Good luck for this weekend and the rest of the season Abbie and thanks for talking to us.

By Marc Waller

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