After two seasons of global communication, Michele Abbate races in Australia for the 2017 Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) champion will join fellow Toyota 86 racers and four-time Australian production car champions, Pedders Racing, to take on the mountain challenge.
With three attempts on the Mount Panorama Circuit completed, Pedders Racing is ready to make an impact at the growing the Bathurst 6 Hour. The event’s 72 place grid is on the verge of being full for the first time in over 75 years of racing at the iconic circuit. The renowned endurance race has committed to bringing the true roots of Australian motor sport production racing, back to the fore of prominence.
For Abbate, it’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to race at one of the world’s greatest circuits. A dream so big, the young racer has cancelled her honeymoon to make the journey to Australia for the race.
Beginning in go-karts and autocross, Abbate made her racing debut with the Sports Car Club of America at the age of sixteen, notably achieving a podium finish behind two national champions in her debut outing. Expanding into road course racing and time attack, Abbate’s impressive performances and university education sealed the deal to become a factory driver for Scion Racing.
In her rookie year, Abbate became class Champion of the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championships in the National Auto Sport Association’s Southern California region, backing it up with a top four place in the overall standings in just her second season of the series.
Realizing opportunity as the renowned Scion FR-S (also known as the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ) hit the highs across the global automotive market, Abbate took the reins of team ownership with the new chassis and support from Scion Racing. Her debut at the world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in her first professional race with the United States Touring Car Championship series, Abbate took home another Rookie of the Year honor, while earning Scion its first manufacturer points in the history of the series.
Following two wins, ten podiums and a fourth of July 2015 championship victory in the SCCA USA Majors Tour Western Conference, Abbate of GRR Racing, went on to earn the Lindley Bothwell Driver of the Year Award, becoming the first female in the award’s 66-year history to take the honor. Abbate has since driven in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, as well as introduced a new Chevrolet SS 363 V8 GT-1 to the SCCA Majors Tour, while adding drift and motorcycles to her racing resume. The events Michele Abbate races in Australia will now mark her international debut at none other than Mount Panorama, Bathurst.
Having gained sponsorship commitment, qualifying for the USA SCCA National Run-Offs led to a growing passion to take motor sport to the next level, so when the door was opened for a Bathurst co-drive with Australia’s Pedders Racing in a Toyota 86 chassis familiar to the Las Vegas native, it was a match made in motor sport heaven, and the American racer can’t wait to land ‘down under’.
“I couldn’t be more excited and thankful to take advantage of this amazing opportunity,” Abbate said. “It has always been my dream to visit Australia and watch some of the best racing in the world, and, thanks to seasons of sharing information, a mutual commitment to the FRS (Toyota 86) chassis, and now with this open door from Pedders Racing, I don’t have to watch, I can actually get out there and race Bathurst! We’ve been toying with the idea of joining forces for a while now, but our racing seasons and business commitments hadn’t fallen in line, so when the date was mentioned, my Crew Chief (fiancé) and I changed our plans because, let’s be honest, is there any where or any way better to do a honeymoon?!”
The Pedders Racing team has been competing at the national level for seven seasons, with victories, records and world-firsts achieved since debuting their Toyota 86 at the Mount Panorama (Bathurst) circuit in 2013. The volunteer managed team, supported by Pedders Suspension, who recently returned to the US automotive marketplace, introduced the world’s first 86 in a national production racing series with a fully FIA homologated chassis to allow for every opportunity.
Securing four further world-firsts in their debut season, Pedders Racing’s #86 entry became a record holder with the first ever national circuit racing pole position, race win, round/event win, and topped off an outstanding 2013 season with the first ever national circuit racing Class Championship for the famed 86 chassis.
In a unique education-first partnership, and with Australia’s most promising motor sport professionals, the students of Motorsports Training Australia, at the helm of preparations, strategy and crew operation, Abbate’s signing to the seasoned production racing Pedders outfit could just prove to be the ticket to tame the mountain.
With high hopes shared across the Pacific, the #86 champion Toyota has undergone a complete mechanical and electrical review during the Australian Production Cars Series off season to give the greatest of opportunities when Easter rolls around.
Having first raced Bathurst alongside Australian movie and TV star Shane Jacobson (Kenny, 2006 film release), Pedders Racing driver and Team Principal, Grant Phillips, echoed the excitement of his latest star co-driver.
“We’ve had lots of exciting things happen to the team since we joined the national scene seven years ago, but to be able to secure the opportunity for an international driver to be with us at Bathurst is pretty up there,” says Jacobson. “Michele (Abbate) has developed a strong pedigree of racing across every opportunity that she creates, and we’re very keen to get her to Australia and get her settled into the seat of our 86. There’s no doubt that Michele’s knowledge of track racing, her understanding of the 86 chassis, and her entertaining approach will gel really well with our team, and it won’t just be a ‘bucket list’ experience for her as a driver, but also an outstanding experience for our MTA (Motorsports Training Australia) crew who take every moment as a unique opportunity to learn.”
The Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour will venture to the famed tarmac of Mount Panorama April 14 – 16, with free live coverage of the endurance race feature to be available online to a global audience via the event’s website at bathurst6hour.com.au.