Eaton "got it wrong" with initial W Series criticism

Tom Errington

Eaton, who also acted as The Grand Tour's test driver during its second and third season on Amazon Prime, was a vocal critic of the series when it launched in 2019, alongside other leading female drivers such as Pippa Mann.

Eaton opted against entering the process to earn a W Series ride in 2019 and was in the midst of trying to move onto Australia's Supercars ladder, managing to make it onto the grid for the Super2 opener in Adelaide - but she was unable to make a switch full-time.

She then entered the Almeria shootout to earn a place on the 2020 W Series 20-car grid and succeeded, meaning she will now make her single-seater debut this year.

Asked on the 2020 Autosport International main stage if her high-profile role on the Grand Tour could boost the W Series, Eaton said: "Yeah, a lot of people have said to me ‘you’re a fraudster, going back on what you said to start with', but actually I can put my hands up and say I got it wrong.

"I’m excited to get racing again, without this opportunity I’d be sitting at home. With what happened in Australia, that’s what I did a lot of last year - sitting at home watching these guys race.

"The level of competition out on track is extremely high and I know I have my work cut out for me this year to get into it."

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The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Supercup champion also said that her future rivals this year were 'brave' for joining the grid for the W Series' first campaign in '19.

Eaton added she was initially "sceptical about segregating the two genders" and asked herself if it was "actually positive long-term" and if it was "going to work".

Her CV has also included previous spells in British GT, GT Cup, the Production Touring Car Championship and a one-off appearance in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup back in 2017.

Asked if her high profile put a target on her back, Eaton said: "Yeah, a lot of people in interviews asked who my biggest competitor is on track and I said ‘you guys [in the media] and what you’re expecting me to do’.

"Ultimately I haven’t had previous single-seater experience. But this is a year I can learn and I’ve got to get stuck in."

The W Series will begin its 2020 season on May 29-30 at new Russian venue Igora Drive as part of an initial six-round calendar.

Eighteen of the 20 slots on the grid this year have been filled and the series is expected to make more announcements ahead of its season getting underway.