Abbie Eaton's Rebelleo Motorsport fights adversities and clinches double top-10 in Valencia
At the fourth round of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe at Valencia, Abbie Eaton's Rebelleo Motorsport overcame adversities to clinch two top-10 finishes in the Pro class - with Eaton and her teammate Daan Arrow overtaking 24 cars in race 2 alone after a first lap contact that highlights their potential.
Coming off her first Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe podium at Nürburgring, Abbie Eaton and her own Rebelleo Motorsport team returned to the track in Valencia, Spain, for the fourth round of the season which marked Eaton's return to sportscar racing. The British racer, founder of the Rebelleo operation - a project that aims to become a platform for drivers that have historically struggled to secure funding at the top of the sport - is sharing the #33 Lamborghini Super Trofeo EVO 2 operated in collaboration with Bonaldi Motorsport with Daan Arrow in a Pro entry. In a over 40 car-field, Eaton and Arrow first claimed a top 10 in Paul Ricard, then clinched a top five at Spa, before they stepped on the podium for the first time in Germany, showing great speed and improvements at every round. Eaton had great battles in her stints and was more comfortable with the car at each round, which gave the Rebelleo squad high hopes for a strong finish at Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. A wet Friday meant that the two drivers got up to speed in tricky conditions, but a second place in the overall and Pro category in FP1 was certainly a great start to the weekend. "Finally got to drive the car properly in the wet on the Friday which was great fun and both Daan and I had top 3 pace", Eaton commented. Qualifying, though, would turn out to be challenging, as several red flags disrupted the sessions and limited the running time. Eaton qualified in P7 among the Pro entries, followed by a fifth place for Daan Arrow - who could still secure good starting positions for the two races despite the interruptions. Abbie was behind the wheel for the start of race 1 on Saturday and, after a second formation lap due to a few cars out of positions at the first start, she had a great launch and picked up a position at turn 1 over Loris Cabirou but then found herself at the outside of turn 2, which allowed the Pro-Am entry of Artem Petrov to snatch seventh overall. Eaton, though, held sixth in the Pro class and defended well over Cabirou, who was then overtaken by the Iron Lynx car of Ugo De Wilde. Eaton was faster than Alessandro Mainetti ahead and tried to find a gap to pass the Oregon Lamborghini, while defending from De Wilde at the same time. De Wilde made the most out of the situation and grabbed sixth - as the Rebelleo driver continued to try to put pressure on Mainetti over the following laps. These battles were temporarily halted by the intervention of the safety car with 35 minutes to go, when Lorenzo Pegoraro and Yury Wagner made contact and went off on lap 7. At the restart, Eaton battled with Patrick Kujala, then the British racer opted to pit once the pit window opened, handing over to Daan Arrow mid-way through the race. The pit strategy paid off and, after the pit cycle, Daan Arrow had moved up to third in the Pro class. Pro/Am front-runners Zonzini, Kujala and Basz were the last to pit as the window closed, leaving Sebastian Balthasar, Brendon Leitch and Daan Arrow in the leading positions overall. Unfortunately, the Rebelleo Motorsport Lamborghini was hit with a drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement, just as Daan Arrow and Abbie Eaton were looking strong at least for an overall podium. Arrow served his penalty with 13 minutes to go, dropping to 28th place overall and 13th in class. Arrow's pace allowed the Dutchman to quickly charge up the field, as he caught up with the top-20 in a matter of a few laps. In the closing minutes, Arrow overtook more Pro/Am entries and, picking up P14 overall after a sterling recovery drive, he eventually secured a top ten in class with a few last lap passes. "[In] race 1 we both had good pace but a pitstop infringement cost us third or better, due to a drive through penalty whilst lying 3rd on the track", Eaton wrote.
From the second row of the grid, Daan Arrow was determined to make up for the previous day's disappointment and capitalize on their speed - but after another strong start he was hit by the VSR Lamborghini of Mattia Michelotto at turn 1 and spun, luckily avoided by the whole pack. Arrow quickly got going again, but had dropped all the way down to P33 overall, as the safety car was deployed at the end of the first lap for the stricken #54 Brutal Fish Racing Lamborghini of Jason Keats, beached in the gravel after contact from the #77 machine of Hernandez Ortega.
After the unfortunate race 1, Arrow had to charge up the field again, when the green flag waved: from 12th in the Pro class, the Rebelleo Motorsport driver had a great restart and immediately gained a couple of positions. Showing impressive pace, Daan made more places before the safety car was deployed once again barely a lap later, when Gabriele Rindone hit the barriers.
The race was back underway with 31 minutes to go and Daan Arrow was on the move: he cleared Tribaudini for class position and, having closed in on the overall top-10, he stayed out once the pit window opened. During the round of pit stops, Arrow took over the class lead and ran as high as second overall with 20 minutes to go, when he took the way of the pitlane to hand over to Abbie Eaton.
After the pit cycle, Eaton had resumed her race in eighth place, as Arrow's strong first stint had almost made up for the first lap spin. Abbie closed in on Desideri after the latter made a mistake and dropped two wheels in the gravel; her consistent lap times allowed at the same time to keep a safe margin on Bolger and Liberati.
Several contacts in the midfield ended in spins but the race remained green and Eaton could continue to build on her rhythm. While Bolger got closer in the final minutes, the Japanese-American was hit with a track limit penalty which gave Eaton some breathing space.
Eaton crossed the line in P9 overall and eighth in the Pro category, thus securing the second top ten of the weekend - and fighting back from setbacks in both races. The fast duo in fact managed to make the most out of the situation and grabbed important points for the championship, showing big improvements from the previous rounds pace-wise, albeit not picking up the deserved results.
"A much better weekend for me, getting to grips with the car a bit more", Eaton commented. "Race 2 was over before it started with contact at T1 for Daan dropping us down to P33. A good recovery drive meant we finished P9 in the end."
Over the course of the second race alone, Arrow and Eaton overtook 24 cars, clearly highlighting Rebelleo's potential. Their performance, though, is highly encouraging as the team will head to Vallelunga, Italy, for the final round of the season in November - which will also host the Lamborghini World Finals a few days later.
"Hopefully the progress I’ve made will continue and we can clinch some better finishes at Vallelunga in November" - Eaton concluded.