The latest Q&A is with Nottingham autograss’ Abi Shields who races races her Class 8 special in UK Autograss and has also recently started to race in Class 7 in a Mini pickup.

Profile

Number of years racing:  I’ve been racing for 9 years. 

1st race car was:  I started out in junior specials. 

Favourite racing car you have driven to date:  It has to be the 8. The buzz you get coming off the line compares to nothing else. 

Favourite track to drive: Cambridge.. it’s not my “usual” type of track, I usually prefer bigger tracks that aren’t so tight but I just love it. 

Favourite track to race on:  Has to be Cwmdu.  It holds some very good memories for me.

Prefer inside or outside gate: Definitely inside, but not grid 1.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your driving skills (1 being lapped, 10 being class leader):  I’d say a 7, I’m up there most of the time. 

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your mechanical skills (1 being I just drive, 10 being I can fix anything):  If I was still in juniors I’d have said 8, however I’d have to say 5 – I can do the basics.

Aim for the 2019 season:  I’d like to win the UK in ladies 8 and make a national final. 

Aim for your racing career:  The main aim is to win the nationals in the 8, a little aim is to have raced all 10 classes. 

Special Abi

Q1.  You have been racing your class 8 for a while now.  Going back to the first time you drove it, what were your first impressions?  The first 8 I raced was my dads and I absolutely loved it. When I first had a play in my 8, I’ll be honest I didn’t enjoy it. However I was just in a grass field and kept going round in circles. Once I was on the track I couldn’t get enough of it.

Q2.  Since that first day, what have you learned in terms of both driving the #N24 and setting it up?  I’ve learnt a lot and I still continue to learn now. As my driving has come on over the years we’ve had to change the front suspension to suit my driving style. I’ve learnt to not enter a corner as quick as I use to, or I’ll just lose the back end. Oh and not to just put my foot flat to the floor on polished tracks. 

Q3.  What, if any, performance is there left to get out of the car?  There’s still a long way to go in terms of performance with the engine. However car and driver seem to be managing well, so for now we’re happy to stay as we are. 

Q4.  You are generally at or near the front in ladies class 8.  Who have you found as your toughest opposition and who do you love to race against?  I absolutely love racing against Emma Shell and Vikki Lamb. Both ladies are awesome drivers and we all respect each other out on the track. This gives us some very close and clean races. Everyone is tough opposition and the race can be anybody’s. 

Q5. You won the UK autograss ladies class 8 title in 2018 and are leading again in 2019.  Are you now looking at points rather than wins to defend that title?  Every point counts in this game. I’m just taking each race as it comes, and trying to collect as many points as possible. 

Q6.  If you successfully defend the title, would you consider joining Emily Crosby in the men’s class 8’s in 2020?  Discuss.  Funny you should ask. I had been thinking about ways to try and enhance my driving ability and this was one of my options.  However I don’t think it was one of dads…. but never say never.  [Matt; Abi did join the men in class 7 last weekend after this Q&A].

Super Abi

Q1.  You have relatively recently added a Super Saloon in the form of the #N42 class 7 to your racing programme.  What was the thinking/aim behind this?  Dad decided after a successful 2018 season that he wanted a new challenge for me, plus I had always said I’d love to have a 7. However we did contemplate getting a 9. The thinking behind it was that I would get more track time at the UK rounds and it would be a new challenge.

Q2.  What, if any, history does the #N42 car have and how does the bhp and acceleration compare to your class 8?   I’m not sure on the cars track history but I know chassis was built by Law Racing. Acceleration wise the 8 picks up much quicker but then again it’s a much lighter car. The 8 throws you back in the seat unlike the 7, however I can keep the 7 flat out more around the corners than the 8.

Q3.  The first time you drove the class 7, how did it compare to your normal class 8?  The 7 is so much easier to handle than the 8. I feel I’ve got to grips quicker with the 7 than I did the 8. The two cars handle completely differently, more so than I expected. As much as I love the 7 it just doesn’t give me as much of a buzz. 

Q4.  From the outside, you look more confident in the 7 now compared to your first drives.  What have you learned and changed?  I’ve found the accelerator!! My first few races in the 7 I didn’t give it everything because the car felt so strange compared to what I been use to for the past 8 years. I had panels, I couldn’t see my wheels and I had much more space in the cab. However now I feel I’ve been in it for years. We haven’t changed much in the way of the car, it’s just a case of getting use to it and seeing what needs changing along the way.

Q5. Racing the 7 and 8 at the same meeting can be a bit hectic, especially if there are re-runs.  Is it easy to quickly switch cars, remember what you are driving and do you preference the results of one over the other?  It sure can be hectic!! Once I’ve got the adrenaline pumping then it doesn’t stop until all races are complete. I do have to remind myself which car I’m in as the gear sticks are on opposite sides. Obviously this year there is no pressure in the 7 so any result is a bonus, however the 8 is the car I’m trying to defend in so I’d rather the better result in the 8.

Q6.  Unfortunately, you weren’t able to run the 7 at the recent Hereford UK autograss round which has dropped you down the class 7 standings.  Is the title still possible in your eyes or will you now direct more focus to the class 8 title?  I think the title chance has been and gone, however I would like to get back up into the trophy positions. My main focus for this year was the 8, regardless of where I stood in the 7 points.

2019 and beyond

Q1.  The next UK autograss round is at your home track.  Will you be aiming for home wins or are points more important?  Like I said previously, every point counts.

Q2.  Leewood and Radford end the UK Autograss Championship.  How well do you go there and do you fancy your chances?  Going on my results from the last time I raced on both tracks I’m feeling fairly confident. Saying that, Radford’s track conditions were very different from the norm at MAP.  I just need to remember how polished it can get!

Q3.  Have you submitted an entry for the Ladies Nationals and what are you expecting from the event?  I’ve entered in both class 7 and 8. I’ve never made a national final as of yet, but I was close in juniors one year. Each year I’ve finished higher then the previous year in points, however this year I feel it may be different. I love Wessex’s track, and the last time I was there I had some strong results. If I’m completely honest, I’ve a feeling I may get in the final with the 7 over the 8.

Q4.  You will be spectating at the Men’s Nationals.  Do you harbour any desire to take on the men?  Definitely! You can’t miss the best meeting of the season. I’d love to have a season or two with the men. 

Q5.  If NASA were to ask you for your opinions on the direction autograss should take, what would your suggestion(s) be?  I though you weren’t suppose to ask people questions on politics…haha! There’s a few ideas I’d put forward but someone will have an answer in reply I’m sure!

 

Thank you to Abi for her time and you can see Abi out on track at this weekend’s third round of UK Autograss held at Nottingham. 

 

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