If you’re a car fan who’s never heard of British racing driver Abbie Eaton, we wouldn’t blame you. But if you’re a fan of The Grand Tour and still don’t know her name, well, we still wouldn’t blame you. Because weirdly, she was never properly introduced.
Initially thinking that The Grand Tour opportunity was a put up by one of her friends, Eaton ended up stepping into the role on Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s Amazon motoring show for Series 2, replacing the divisive previous incumbent, former NASCAR racer Mike ‘The American’ Skinner.
With Series 2 now complete, RedBull recently sat down with her to speak about life alongside Clarkson, Hammond and May.
On becoming The Grand Tour’s test driver
“I initially received an email asking me to come down to the track and do some filming. If I’m honest, I thought it was a bit of a wind up when I first read the email, but it soon became apparent that it was all legit when I was en route to Swindon the next week to meet the team.”
Her thoughts on the ‘Eboladrome’ test track
“The Eboladrome is a challenging but rewarding track – you really have to respect it, as there are many areas that can easily bite you. But do it right and it feels fantastic! The majority of the corners are blind and off-camber, meaning you enter them not knowing where the exit is – or whether there’s a deer or pheasant stood in the middle of the road waiting to greet the bonnet! We’ve had to abort a few laps because of wildlife wandering across the track.”
On whether she had any scary lap moments
“The track is pretty tricky, so it inevitably brings out a few mistakes while you’re getting to grips with each car – especially in the poor weather conditions we are blessed to have so often in the UK!”
“I had a bit of a moment in the Mercedes-AMG GT R. I was doing a couple of runs to get the tyre temperatures up before the timed lap, and on the narrow run down to Substation, there’s a crest on the left kink which caused the rear of the car to step out a little – and that’s not a place on the track where you want to be sideways! Cue heart rate increase…”
The best car she’s driven on the show
“My favourite car to drive was the Ford GT; the handling was fantastic and the carbon-ceramic brakes were ridiculously good. You can confidently throw the car around and the feedback you get just inspires you to push more and more. I did need some padding behind me in the seat, though, as even with the steering wheel as close as possible I still couldn’t reach it properly – and I’m 5ft 10!”
Has the Grand Tour role helped her career?
“Being The Grand Tour test driver has certainly helped with raising my profile and I’ve had a few offers of drives. But I really want to make sure it’s the right racing program for me.”
“I’m looking towards GT3 drives in America or Europe and possibly the Dubai 12hr in January 2019. After winning my first race in the Ferrari 488 GT3 in 2017 with no testing and at a new track, it really inspired me to get a full-time seat and get fully stuck in.”
You can read the full interview here.
A significant, nee immeasurably vast, improvement over Mike “The Arseh*le” Skinner… whose mere presence almost made me stop watching TGT