Eaton and Hoggarth achieve season best finish at Rockingham

Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth have taken their best result in British GT with a superb comeback drive aboard their Maserati GT MC. Abbie and Marcus made good progress during both practice sessions ahead of the weekend and converted this into a top-10 starting spot. Both drivers then fought hard during the two hour race and overcame a pit-stop penalty to claim their best finish to date in fourth place. This result sees the Ebor GT Motorsport pairing secure a top-10 position in the championship heading into Oulton Park in four weeks’ time.

Teaming up for the 2016 campaign, Eaton and Hoggarth were one of the teams to watch driving for Ebor GT Motorsport in the all-new Maserati GT MC. Eaton raced a BMW M3 in the GT Cup Championship last season after taking the Mazda MX-5 Supercup title in 2014. Marcus also spent most of 2015 racing in the GT Cup Championship, albeit in a different class to Abbie, but their similar background will help them develop as a team. In the season opening race at Brands Hatch, Abbie and Marcus did a great job in what was practically a test session after very limited running in the car prior to the meeting, to finish in eighth after starting 11th.

In the first practice session of the weekend, Abbie drove the full hour to gain familiarity with the car on an abrasive Rockingham surface. It was a productive session with Eaton turning some very competitive lap times including 14 laps within a second of her best, showing superb consistency. With Marcus sitting out the first session, he took the reins for the 50 minute second session and also showed good speed despite comparably little experience to the rest of the field. Although the pairing finished the session slowest in GT4, Hoggarth’s consistency was excellent with race pace being the main focus for the team.

Qualifying took place later in the afternoon with Abbie and Marcus aiming to make improvements on their times set in practice. Marcus was first up to qualify, and despite having four of his six lap times deleted due to track limit infringements, he still set the ninth fastest time out of the “Am” drivers. Abbie was up next and just like Marcus; she convincingly beat her best time from practice to qualify tenth in the “Pro” group of drivers. With their times combined, Eaton and Hoggarth would start the race from tenth, just hundredths of a second away from ninth.

Abbie and Marcus were confident of further progress during the race, following on from their excellent consistency in practice. Hoggarth drove the first stint and made a good start, elevating the Maserati into eighth place by the end of the first lap. Although he lost out to Lanan Racing’s Joey Foster shortly after, Marcus settled into his rhythm and overtook the Century Motorsport car of Sean Byrne on lap 15. Hoggarth then re-took the position from Foster before closing in on the Beechdean Racing Aston Martin, passing Jack Bartholomew on lap 34. The Maserati was suffering from little tyre degradation in comparison to some of their rivals which helped Hoggarth make up ground during the end his stint.

Marcus made his mandatory pit stop on lap 38 as he handed over to Abbie, Hoggarth’s strong race pace had elevated the Ebor GT Motorsport machine into the top-5 prior to the driver change. The safety car was brought out shortly after with Abbie running in second, within touching distance of the leading McLaren 570S of Ciaran Haggerty. When the racing resumed, Eaton did a good job to hold her position before Jamie Chadwick and Nathan Freke both found a way past. Abbie’s pace was good during the opening stages of her stint, but on lap 56 she was passed by the Beechdean Racing Aston Martin, now in the hands of Jordan Albert. The same lap saw a penalty for the class leading McLaren due to a pit stop infringement which lifted Eaton back up to fourth. Unfortunately the Ebor GT Motorsport crew were also hit with a stop and go penalty for a pit stop which was faster than the allowed time. Abbie served the penalty and was determined to make up for lost time, re-joining the race in seventh position. Her tenacity was rewarded as she ran competitive lap times in the final portion of the race to end the two hour contest in a highly respectable fifth position. A stewards enquiry after the race meant the winning Century Motorsport duo of Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke were excluded from the results due to overtaking under yellow flags, this promoted Abbie and Marcus to fourth, an excellent result in just their second race in the Maserati GT MC.

With their brilliant result this weekend, Eaton and Hoggarth will be confident ahead of the rest of the season as they aim to further develop the Maserati GT MC in the highly competitive British GT championship. Although the pit stop penalty took away a potential podium finish, both drivers will be satisfied with the progress they’ve made at one of the toughest circuits on the calendar. The fourth place finish has moved Eaton and Hoggarth well inside the top-10 in the overall standings, quite an achievement considering the limited running both drivers have had in the car. Abbie and Marcus will next be on track at Oulton Park in four weeks’ time as they aim to continue their positive start to the season.

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