When Mike Skinner casually announced on Twitter that he wouldn’t be rejoining the cast of The Grand Tour for Season 2, the question immediately on everyone’s minds was “How did it take them so long to fire him?” And then, soon after, “Who’s gonna be the new guy?”
Well, it turns out the new guy isn’t a guy at all. It’s Abbie Eaton, British racing driver and salmon enthusiast. According to her website, she’s 25 years old, lives in Northampton, and hates tomatoes, mushrooms, and spiders (I can relate on all three counts). She has two pets called Marmie and Tillie, and somehow Jeremy Clarkson hired her even though her favorite car is the Maserati MC12–which he summed up on TopGear as an Enzo, but worse in every single way.
Like many racing drivers, she started out karting, hitting the tarmac at the tender age of ten. She eventually graduated to real cars in the Junior SAXMAX series, finishing fourth overall two years running. In 2009, she was the Class B champion of the Production Touring Car Trophy series. Starting in 2010, Eaton competed in the Mazda MX-5 Supercup, winning the whole thing in 2014. In 2017, after numerous podium finishes in the GT Cup and GT4 series, she won Blancpain and became their first female podium sitter. That’s a pretty dazzling CV for someone who’s been racing for twice as long as she’s been legally allowed to drink.
Eaton’s first job on TV was in last night’s episode of The Grand Tour, where she took the Mercedes-AMG GT R around in 1:18.7, which is apparently fast, but not enough cars have been send around the Eboladrome yet to establish some clear context. Nevertheless, it’s great to see that she’s not playing some silly character like Skinner had to, and I hope she gets some screen time outside of one lap per episode (one of the few high points of Chris Evans’ tenure on TopGear was a segment in which Sabine Schmitz carted him around a track in an Audi R8 at about a thousand miles an hour, shouting and smiling the whole way, while Evans fought the urge to throw up).