Michele Abbate – Time Attacker and Wheel 2 Wheel Racer

27 Apr

Ever since she came onto the scene a few years ago at Redline Time Attack events I’ve been a fan of Michele Abbate. I believe she is a perfect example of a true motorsport enthusiast applying her passion to an activity she absolutely loves. She has driven and raced a wide variety of cars at dozens of events over the last 5 years or so, and it does not appear she will be slowing down any time soon!

In my final post for this week, I had the chance to ask Michele a few questions about her racing background and her plans for this season and beyond:

 

Team Name:  Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S
Vehicle Model/Year: 2011 Scion tC
Sponsors: Scion Racing, Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S, Hankook, KW, Greddy, Weds Sport, Brian Crower, Seibon, Mishimoto, ACT, & TRD
Tires: Hankook RS3’s soon to Z214’s

 

Nikolas: You’ve been involved in organized motorsports for a number of years now. Where did you get your start?

 

Michele:  Initially it started with me begging to drive my brother’s go kart.  My dad let me take a stab at it a few times, but I didn’t get to fully indulge myself until I submersed myself in the regional SCCA Autocrosses.  My first event was in December of 2004, and I didn’t have my first track day until April 2009.  I developed most of my fundamentals of racing from watching my brother as I grew up.

 

Nikolas: I’d have to say that most people who know of your racing exploits, are most familiar with your participation in Time Attack events. You’ve driven your personal Mazda Speed Protege and a MINI. What other cars have you raced in time attack?

 

Michele:  I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to drive several different cars in time attack events. One of my most favorite cars that I’ve driven is the world famous Crawford Performance STi, aka Tony (at Willow Springs).  In addition, I have also driven a few Miatas, Subarus, a Porsche Boxster, Jeff Abram’s turbo RX-8, and a Lotus Exige.   There might be a few others I’m forgetting…

 

Nikolas: Recently you began to dabble in wheel to wheel racing, including oval races at the Bullring @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Talk a little about that.

 

Michele: 

My very first wheel to wheel race was actually on Valentine’s Day in 2010.  At that time I was single and I decided renting a race car would be one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts for myself. haha  It was in a Legends car, and we raced at the outside road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  To my surprise I finished the race with 4 cars behind me, in a field of about 12 cars.  My second time racing the legends car was about 10 months later, December of 2010 right after I graduated from UNLV.  I finished 2nd overall and really started to develop a true addiction to wheel to wheel racing.  
 
In October of 2011, I competed in my first oval race ever, in a Thunder Roadster.  This was a totally different experience for me –  Oval racing is definitely a different beast all in itself!  Once I had a taste of the Thunder Roadster, I wanted to try it on the road course. So this January (2012) I put it to the test. Open wheel cars are significantly different to drive than any full size car.  The Legends are definitely my favorite, they will teach you everything you need to know about handling any kind of car!
 

It was February that I earned my NASA Provisional Race License which obviously allows me to compete in the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Challenge.  Earning my license has been one of my biggest accomplishments in my racing career.  It meant the world to me to finally reach the top of that ladder.  Fortunately I am very thankful to have a good friend, Donn Vickrey, who gave me the opportunity to run my first NASA race  in March with his Porsche Boxster Spec car.  Since then, I am now driving the Scion Racing tC prepared by Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S. Which brings us to our next question! 

 

 

Nikolas:  The opportunity to drive the GruppeS Scion tC came about recently, did it not?  They were working with Bucky Lasek last year if I remember correctly.

 

Michele:  Haha yes, I am more than fortunate to have the opportunity to be running this car.  It wasn’t too long ago I remember drooling over it when I saw it being built.  Bucky Lasek tested the car last year, but he had schedule conflict and decided to try his hand at rally instead.

 

Nikolas:  You had success this past weekend at Buttonwillow for the opening weekend of the MPTCC, landing on the podium in 3rd for both races. Next, the series moves to Auto Club Speedway. What are your thoughts about ACS, and what will you need to do to prepare for that track?

 

Michele:  Auto Club Speedway was never one of my favorites; though I have grown to like it more.  It is a unique track with two very very important turns… the one onto the oval, and off of the oval.  These two spots are absolutely key to consistency in fast lap times.  The tC has great power from the Greddy turbo, the KW V3 suspension is extremely stable, and the upgraded TRD brakes are exactly what I need to feel confident behind the wheel.  I am excited to get this car on this track.  I feel like with the proper setup it will have a good foundation for some impressive lap times.  I’m hoping to hit at least 135 going into turn 1 🙂

 

 

Nikolas: Did I understand you correctly when you said you were racing on DOT treaded tires at Buttonwillow?  If so, I can’t wait to see how the car will do running on some DOT slicks like the Hankook Z214 C51’s!

 

Michele:  Yes, DOT slicks will definitely turn the tables a bit from what we had seen at Buttonwillow 😉  The RS3’s are a great tire but the Z214 will make a world of a difference.

 

Nikolas: What are the teams plans for the rest of the season? Can we expect to see you racing in the remaining MPTCC events this year?

 

Michele:  If all goes well you will see is at the remaining MPTCC events.  Other events may pop up as the season continues, it’s best to just keep an eye on the Scion Racing facebook, or mine as well.

 

Nikolas:  As one of the only females involved in sport-compact-car racing, whether it be time attack or wheel to wheel, what do you have to say to encourage more young women to step forward and become active in racing? I’d love to see more women involved in racing!

 

Michele:  It’s always the same answer when I am asked this…. Ladies, just get out there and do it! That’s your first step.  You’ve got to put yourself out there and give it a try;  it’s a lot easier than what you think.  Where there’s a will there’s a way and if you’ve got a safe car there are local organizations with events that will help you get to where you want to be.  I always recommend checking out NASAproracing.com or SCCA.org to find your nearest region and get started!   For those who don’t have a car, there are plenty of racing/driving schools out there as well.  They are a bit pricey, but the experience and knowledge you gain is immeasurable.   Lastly, I am always making myself known to be available for any questions or advice. 🙂  Feel free to message me on facebook and I will be happy to reply!

 

Nikolas:  Have you set any goals for yourself when it comes to racing? Perhaps involvement in a specific series?

 

Michele:

I always have one goal: Learn.  There is always something to be learned, especially with racing.  Every time I get on the track I want to learn something new by trying something different.  The only way to get better is by making an effort to change what you do.  This is very important for me and I try to focus on making the best decisions for what new things to try.  

Other than that, I want to be sure to get as much experience as I can through seat time.  I would love to race in world challenge, but I want to take my time and progress at a reasonable rate.  I feel like I have gotten to where I am pretty quick, and I want to be sure I do not rush into things too fast.  I want to take the time to learn and master and understand everything that I can, so that if and when I move up, I am properly “trained”.  Racing is more than just getting licensing and moving up, it’s about understanding all of the fundamentals and remembering them every time you are strapped in that seat.

This is something I was quick to realize with wheel to wheel.  You can read about incidents and situations all you want.  But there is nothing like being there and learning from it all first hand.  I watched my brother for almost 10 years compete in wheel to wheel, but the experience is absolutely incomparable to spectating.
Nikolas:  Where can fans go to stay up to speed with your racing? Do you have a blog or a Facebook fan page?
Michele: 

Facebook is always the quickest, most up to date postings about my racing.  I think I have almost every social network:

facebook: www.facebook.com/M1cheleAbbate
twitter:  MSPM1chele

As long as you spell my name right, you’ll find me somewhere. ;]
Nikolas:  Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Michele, we appreciate it! Do you have any parting comments for your fans and supporters?
Michele:  Thank you for the opportunity!  As always I want to thank everyone for their continued support and interest.  It is amazing to see and hear all of the support over the years.  This has been a phenomenal journey for me, and I never want it to end.  I am so fortunate to have such an amazing relationship and opportunity with Scion Racing and Dynamic Autosports/Gruppe-S.  I am more than ecstatic to see what this season brings! Special thanks to  Hankook, KW, Greddy, Weds Sport, Brian Crower, Seibon, Mishimoto, ACT, & TRD for their continued support and efforts to make our car one of the best on the field!
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