Grand Tour driver Abbie Eaton races to win
In this article: The day Grand Tour and race driver, Abbie Eaton, raced and won the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Supercup
I’d raced in the MX-5s on and off for around two years in a family run team. In 2014 I was up against 37 drivers all battling for the Championship. It was a really tough start to my campaign with some new car upgrades making it difficult to nail a competitive setup, so the first few rounds I managed a highest finish of sixth. You can imagine as a family run team, tensions and emotions can run high. There was a lot of pressure on all of us to sort the problems out and crack on with getting points for the championship bid.
After seven race weekends it all boiled down to the final two races at Donington Park. I was 17 points in the lead and all I needed to do was finish both races to safely win the championship. I qualified second with my title competitor, Tom Roche, sitting in fourth.
I had a good start off the line but ended up dropping back to fourth, trying to avoid incidents on the track, gifting Tom the race lead. It wasn’t the end of the world. I set about chasing Tom down and it was then that I noticed my engine slowly started losing power making it extremely difficult to stick with the front pack. I had no idea what impact it would have on the points, or whether it could potentially lose me the championship, so I decided to run the engine until it would run no further. It didn’t take long, another two laps and it blew. I coasted into the pits with smoke pouring out of the car, parked in the garage, shouted a lot of expletives and went into the truck, locking the door behind me.
Miracles do happen
We didn’t have a spare engine nor did we have the funds to buy an engine, not to mention where would we find one at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon? But my dad had immediately called a salvage yard down the road that happened to have a crashed MX-5 with a running engine, and with the help of the other drivers in the championship, was being delivered to the garage.
Shocked, I asked where the money had come from. It was then my Dad said: “Well I would need to fix the other one anyway, so we might as well use our credit card and get one now so we can sell the car with at the end of the season - it’ll give you a chance to still win the championship”. Wow.
The crew worked through the night transferring the new engine into my race car making sure every little bit was done correctly so it would, hopefully, run in the race. I didn’t sleep at all that night, I knew what I had to do to win the championship was going to be a tall order.
Back on track
I started dead last because I didn’t finishing the first race, and I needed to finish within two places of Tom Roche to have any chance of winning the championship. My start was good, overtaking nine cars on the first lap. Another four on the second lap. Another lap and another place gained, but the pack was getting harder to cut through as people fought their own battles.
I held seventh place for a few laps slowly pulling the others in and that’s when I noticed that the front pack were all fighting each other and I was actually starting to reel them in.
The engine in the car was holding up, but was definitely down on power so I knew I had to start taking risks if I was to gain the last few places I needed. Up to sixth, just behind the front pack! But then disaster.
I was hit off the circuit, spun around to face the wrong direction and the engine wouldn’t start. All of the energy and emotion and anger and frustration I had accumulated over the weekend came out of me in the most explosive way. I screamed and shouted and punched the wheel, punched the transmission tunnel, punched everything I could.
From despair to hope
In the space of 48 hours I had won the championship, lost the championship, won the championship and finally lost the championship through someone else’s dirty driving.
I came into the pits whaling in pain because of what had happened. But there was one last twist in the tale, my uncle had worked out the maths. Tom Roche was currently on circuit in second position, ‘drop scores’ in the championship meant I would pick up points from my lowest finish earlier in the year, which was another sixth place. This meant Tom and I were both equal on points, so the winner would come down to podium positions.
Tom and I both had five wins each, but he had three second places to my two, meaning he would clinch the title, but...
...during the last race, and my fierce battle through the pack with my struggling second-hand engine, I had managed to set the fastest lap, and that was worth one extra point. I won the Championship. Euphoria
This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?