Video: This MX-5 Supercup Title Fight Is An Emotional Rollercoaster

If you’re a fan of The Grand Tour, you’ve heard of Abbie Eaton. As the replacement for the Stig, her job requires her to be able to set quick laps, but her skillset isn’t limited to just that. There’s a difference between setting a quick lap and having the racecraft and fighting spirit to drag oneself to the front of the field when the conditions are so dire. In this footage from the season finale at Donington Park, Eaton makes the charge of her life as she pursues the title that seems to slip from her grasp completely after a horrible start.

The 2014 BRSCC MX-5 Supercup championship went down to the final race. At the Donington Park finale, Eaton had to finish at least 6th or within four places of Tom Roche to win the championship. After starting in 22nd due to an engine failure-related DNF in the previous race, she had her work cut out for her.
With an untested engine powering her car this day, she didn’t know what to expect—perhaps that helped her make the daring moves with narrow margins to cut her way through the field. It isn’t a blind charge like you might expect from someone in such a pressurizing situation. Instead, Eaton drives through narrow openings with some care, though at no point does she dawdle.

Picking Her Fights Carefully

After trading positions with a white Miata (4:45), she points forward to tell her competitor to cooperate. Since fighting for corners will slow themselves down, she gestures to indicate it’s wiser running cleanly in single file. That way, they’re more likely to reel in the front runners.

The real fight is ahead.

When a driver ahead spins and Eaton must decide how to take evasive action, however, the driver manages to stop mid-track and Eaton can take a calculated risk by staying flat and dropping two wheels in the grass. In this hurried situation, she’s not able to lose much time.
Her hard charging pays off and within a couple laps, Eaton joins the fray with the fastest five and has to begin calculating risks a little more carefully. After riding a huge wave of adrenaline, it’s tough to reel it back in, but nonetheless necessary to remain in the fight. This is never clearer than after she enjoys a great run down through the Craner Curves (9:04) only to overcook one corner, slide, and have to do the work all over again. Her sights on the championship slip further away with every blunder, and you can see her frustration clearly through her body language.

Overdriving is especially costly when the margins between the front-running cars are so slim.

Luck is a Fickle Thing

She eventually rejoins the pack and slots in just behind her title rival Roche in the orange car. Momentarily, things are looking up, but all her courageous driving almost amounts to nothing after Clint Bardwell attempts a very late pass, sticks his nose inside, and spins her just as victory was within her grasp. With the car too damaged to continue, she rolls into the pits and weeps.
Fortunately, her rival didn’t have the luck he wanted, either. Roche finished 2nd and failed to set fastest lap needed to overtake Eaton in the points; giving her the title with only a single point between them! Eaton rode an emotional rollercoaster that weekend; bouncing like a pinball between the poles of despair and elation several times. Though this wasn’t the glorious finish a charger like her would’ve preferred, winning the title in this way—in just about any way—was still a welcome surprise.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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