Only three rounds into her first Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe season, Abbie Eaton and her team Rebelleo Motorsport secured their first podium in the Pro class, finishing tenths away from an overall top three out of a hugely competitive 45-car field.
Abbie Eaton has clinched her first podium finish in Lamborghini Super Trofeo - in her rookie season - at the Nürburgring, securing her team Rebelleo Motorsport's best finish to date. The former W Series driver has in fact returned to GT racing with her own operation, an ambitious project that is aimed to establish itself as a platform for drivers that have historically struggled to secure funding at the top of the sport. Eaton is partnering Dutch racer Daan Arrow in her team's first ever campaign, under the technical guidance of Italian squad Bonaldi Motorsport. The Pro entry immediately showed speed to battle at the very top end of a hugely competitive almost 50 car field, Eaton and Arrow were in the top ten at their series debut at Circuit Paul Ricard - then made another big step forward at Spa Francorchamps, where they secured their first top five in class. Rebelleo's duo kept momentum and, with another spectacular run at the Nürburgring, Abbie and Daan made it to the podium for the first time this season, finishing third in the Pro class in race 2, having also led the pack overall. In the mixed weather conditions typical of the Nürburgring region, Eaton was able to showcase some promising speed in practice, as the Rebelleo Lamborghini finished fourth and fifth in class in the two practice sessions - both well within the top ten. Abbie was behind the wheel for the first qualifying on Saturday morning and she set a 2:00.740 lap that put the #33 car in seventh place in the Pro class - with four cars in almost a tenth of a second. Traffic was a big factor, as her best lap would have put her in fifth place. Daan Arrow got in the driving seat for Q2 - and the Dutch racer went even faster, recording a 2:00.476 lap that gained him third overall and second in class, barely two tenths off overall pole position.
The first race of the weekend went underway in sunny conditions, with the whole 45 cars making it out unscathed from the first lap. Abbie Eaton was the elected driver for the first stint and had a cautious start, eventually losing a couple of positions at the tricky first right hander, as Michelotto kept the overall and pro class lead, ahead of Schandorff, Bonduel and Liberati. Having settled in eighth in class, Eaton tried to find a way past the ProAm entry of Ianniello, but then was under increasing pressure from the Villorba Corse Lamborghini of Jim Pla. They led a six car train of several Pro and ProAm drivers battling for positions, before Pla found a way past with 32 minutes to go at turn 2, after a close battle through the first corner. Eaton was struggling for grip and would lose one further place to Patrick Matthiesen - albeit she put on a fight with a strong defense a turn 1.
The pit window opened and Eaton was back in the pitlane with 28 minutes to go, handing over to Daan Arrow for the second stint. She brought back the #33 Rebelleo Motorsport's Lamborghini in P14 overall and P9 in the Pro class and Arrow rejoined right alongside the Oregon Team Huracan of Pedro Ebrahim. Daan could claim the position with an outstanding move around the outside of turn 1, out-braking his rival just outside of the pitlane. Arrow made up more places in the overall classification and, eighth in class, had seven seconds to close in order to catch the group of cars ahead. The Dutchman significantly cut the gap at the rate of several seconds per lap and closed in on ProAm entries Formanek and Schoonderwoerd. Arrow cleared both with less than 10 minutes to go, then hunted down Martin Ryba. The Slovak was involved in a multi-car contact at the chicane, paving the way to Daan Arrow who snatched eighth overall and seventh in class. A good recovery with strong race pace gave Arrow and Abbie Eaton P7 in the Pro class on Saturday.
Race 2 got underway after a very wet GT World Challenge qualifying; while rain had stopped, the mixed conditions made for a particularly challenging situation for the Lamborghini Super Trofeo drivers and the race was therefore started behind the safety car. Bonduel led Spinelli and Daan Arrow when the clock started ticking down: the Rebelleo Motorsport's driver was up in the overall lead just after a couple of corners with a spectacular double pass around the outside of turn 5. A second neutralization immediately followed, after an accident between Ibrahim Badawy and Nigel Schoonderwoerd required another safety car and forced the delay of the pit window by three minutes. The green flag waved again on lap 7, and Arrow set the pace preceding the battling Bonduel and Spinelli - the latter making a move stick for second. Arrow had opened a small gap after a flawless restart, but Spinelli fought back and, a few laps later, the Italian managed to get past the #33 Rebelleo machine for the overall lead; Eaton's teammate, though, still retained the first place in the Pro class. It was then Abbie Eaton's time to shine with 16 minutes to go: Spinelli and Arrow both pitted on the same lap, chased by Brendon Leitch. Eaton left the pits retaining second overall and first in class - but with the fast approaching Leitch and Bonduel getting bigger in her mirrors. Leitch and Bonduel made a move stick with 10 minutes to go, respectively at turns 11 and 15. In the final minutes, Eaton defended from Balthasar and Soderstrom, but at the same time she caught ProAm leader Lewandowski ahead; as they encountered the lapped cars, a huge traffic jam meant that Soderstrom found a way past Balthasar, with Rodrigo Testa and Guillem Pujeu also joining the party. These battles allowed Eaton to focus on the car ahead and opened a safe margin that eventually allowed her to cross the finish line in P4 overall, third in the Pro class - and therefore claiming her first podium in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe. Only a few tenths away from an overall podium, Abbie Eaton and Daan Arrow showed again a huge development in the third round of the championship - also mid-way point of the season. Despite a difficult first part of race 1, Eaton held her own in the second race, defending well from fast and experienced drivers in the very closing laps. After a strong first half of the season, Abbie and her Rebelleo Motorsport team will be looking to build upon this result after the summer break, as the Lamborghini one make series will return to the track at Circuito Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, on 15-17 September.