Abbie Eaton was so sceptical about the all-female W Series she turned down an opportunity to apply for its inaugural 2019 season – little did she know how soon she would be changing her mind.
Fast forward 12 months and Eaton, who was blown away by the success of the ground-breaking racing series, has said goodbye to The Grand Tour TV cameras and hello to taking part in the event’s second edition next spring.
She knows she is guilty of doubting the strength of the series herself but after being selected in October as one of six new drivers on the 20-woman circuit, Eaton is ready to prove people wrong.
“The first year sounded a little too good to be true,” she said.
“There have been female championships in the past that just haven’t worked. They’ve been more of a gimmick and done more harm than good.
“The success is a testament to the organisers and the drivers - there’s been no expense spared in the infrastructure around the girls.
“If they were rubbish the racing would be rubbish and it would fail – but that’s clearly not the case.”
Having spent the last few years working as the test driver on the second and third series of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, the W Series will be Eaton’s first full season of racing in three years, and her first in a single-seater.
Beforehand the Yorkshire-born racer had enjoyed plenty of success on the track, winning the Mazda MX-5 SuperCup in both 2010 and 2014.
If she wants to a W Series title to her accolades it’s almost certain she’ll have to beat her compatriot Jamie Chadwick, but Eaton insists the inaugural W Series winner isn’t her main competition – it’s others’ expectations.
“It’s me against myself,” she said.
“I have a lot of support from people who are under the impression that I’m going to come in and rock it but that’s not the case.
“I’m going to be the person who has had the least amount of time in a single-seater. I’ve got a big hill to climb.”
Successful on the track or not, Eaton is hoping her contribution to expanding the W Series can have a wider reaching effect on women in the sport on the whole.
She may have the opportunity to compete against one of the world best female racers in Chadwick, but that’s not enough for Eaton – she wants to be competing against the very best racers in the world full stop.
“I think it’s too early to say whether or not the W Series can be a step to integration,” she added.
“Obviously Jamie won it last year, but she is coming back to do it again so you can’t really say the step to the next level has happened yet.
“My motorsport opinion is that men and women should be able to compete as equals so to have the genders segregated was initially quite worrying to me.
“But I think in the long term it’s definitely going to raise the profile of female drivers and put them in a position where they get more opportunities than ever before.”