Gosberton teen has the Abbi habit of karting success
Taking pride of place in the latest issue of MSA Magazine, the official organ of the Motor Sports Association, is Gosberton karting princess Abbi Pulling (13).
But regardless of whether the magazine, published by the governing body for motor sport in the UK, had been guest edited by ex-Williams Formula One test driver Susie Wolff or not, Abbi would make sure of creating headlines in her own right.
That’s because the Bourne Academy student is taking the karting world by storm, most recently by coming home second in the British Historic Kart Club Super Prix and ‘E’ Plate Meeting at Shenington Kart Racing Club in Oxfordshire.
Andy Pulling, Abbi’s dad, instructor, manager and constant companion at race meeting, said: “Abbi is possibly the best lady kart racer of them all.
“I watch her drive sometimes and think ‘This is so amazing, I find it hard to believe what I’m watching’
“But I know how much time she puts into this sport and she’s so enthusiastic about karting.”
In the space of just four years since first taking up karting, Abbi has become the darling of the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club (BWRDC), formed by late sportscar driver Mary Wheeler in 1962 with the aim of promoting and supporting women in all forms of motorsport.
At its annual awards dinner in Warwickshire five months ago, Abbi took home three awards for karting and top junior driver before she was named as the youngest-ever winner of the Mary Wheeler Trophy for overall club champion.
Abbi said: “It was a shock and it never crossed mine and Dad’s minds that I’d win the award.
“I’d zoned out of the awards dinner so that when I heard my name called out, I didn’t even know what it was for.
I’d zoned out of the awards dinner so that when I heard my name called out, I didn’t even know what it was for
“But I was so thrilled and proud to win the top award and it’s given me the motivation to do either Formula One or British Touring Cars.”
Things could have been startlingly different for Abbi had she followed her mum Karen and older sister Jaime in to equestrian sports.
Andy said: “Abbi started karting because she didn’t want to do horse racing, something she’d started when she was three years old.
“It was because of her mum and sister that she started riding, but Abbi has her own mind and she chose karting.”
Abbi herself explained: “My dad used to race stock cars and then went into motorbike racing.
“But it was when my cousin started racing at corporate karting events that I started getting into it myself because it looked fun.
“A little later, my dad bought me a real go kart for Christmas in 2011 when I was eight.
“I was at Surfleet Primary School when I started karting, spending a lot of time at Tattershall Karting Centre (near Woodhall Spa).
There is no exaggeration in saying that Abbi took the karting scene by storm, taking her first podium place in the Cadet class in April 2012, winning her first MSA final in December 2012 before breaking laps records at karting tracks, including Fulbeck, Kimbolton and Shenington.
Andy said: “Abbi started in the Cadet 60cc class which leads you to various places and after a year in the Tattershall Championship, we moved to MSA racing.
“In her first full season, Abbi did the national Little Green Man Championship and the cadet karting which she was quite successful at.
“Then after a two-year apprenticeship, Abbi had a growth spurt at a time when she would have had a good chance of glory in cadet karting.
“She went into junior karting in the TKM class for 11-17 year-olds and at her first race, the SuperOne British Championships at Buckmore Park Kart Circuit in Kent, Abbi went and set the fastest lap in only her second race.”
Pole positions soon followed before Abbi clinched a close second place in her first British Championship final at Shenington last September.
Andy said: “Nobody expected a 12-year-old to drive through the field and lead, before finishing on the podium in second, in a Junior TKM race which is for 11 to 17-year-olds.
“Most of the drivers Abbi was racing against were 16, but through that performance Abbi got her first sponsorship from Benzai Events of Oxfordshire.”
This season, knowledgeable followers of karting genuinely believe that Abbi could be become the first girl or woman to win a British national karting championship since Tiffany “Tiff” Chittenden captured the Super 1 National Rotax Max DD2 Championship as a 16-year-old in 2007.
Abbi said: “On the whole, the other drivers are very respectful of me, even though there’s a big age difference between us.
“Someone told me once that I’m so laid back when I drive, just turning up to a track and doing it.
“A lot of the drivers underestimate me and try to intimidate me, but that’s one thing I’ve learned to deal with just by being there and being involved.
“If you visualize the track I’m driving on the night before a race, you’re already five laps ahead of the other drivers before you even start.”
Andy added: “You need a dedication to karting and a talent for it, but the other drivers also know that if they want to beat Abbi, they have to up their game.”
That prophecy is becoming crystal clear this season where, under the Tai-Ko Racing Team, Abbi won the last two rounds of the six-round SuperOne British Championships and currently lies in second place, two points off leader Kristian Brierley.
Andy said: “Apart from the British Karting Championships, Abbi hasn’t raced since mid-June after having four meetings on the trot where she won four out of the five finals she was in.
“Abbi’s had a big, mad run of success and the women at the BWRDC club are really proud of her.
“The awards she won in February really brought her to the fore and the club members really are behind her.
“A lot of people are watching what she’s doing and commentators are saying my daughter is the next Lewis Hamilton.”
Hamilton, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Susie Wolff and current Renault development driver Carmen Jorda all started where Abbi Pulling is now.
Among those to notice this fact are motor sport presenters Suzi Perry and Louise Goodman, Williams Formula One deputy team principal Claire Williams and BWRDC chairman Gail Hill, all of whom have Abbi very firmly in their sights.
Gail said: “I know Abbi quite well and she is a great prospect for the future, ably supported by her dad Andy who I think keeps her grounded.
“She is a great talent who became the youngest ever winner of the BWRDC Mary Wheeler/Embassy Memorial Trophy (effectively BWRDC club Champion) for her performances last year.
“Abbi is developing her skills both on and off track and is sensible in her ambitions, wanting to be a professional driver, but not putting a focus on Formula One which most young karters seem to do.
“Bearing in mind that only 22 people in the world will ever get into Formula One, I think she is very wise to set her sights closer to home with, I would say, a real possibility of getting into British Touring Cars should she choose to go in that direction when she is old enough to drive a car.
“However, at the age of 13 Abbi has plenty of time to develop her karting skills and win awards, of which I think there will be many.
“Abbi has a great personality and the ability, I think, to be another Susie Woolf.”
The Royal Automobile Club in London, home of the MSA, hosted A Salute to Women in Motor Sport dinner in May where the guest of honour was motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss and his wife Lady Susie Moss.
Andy said: “It was Abbi’s first-ever visit to London and she visited the poshest place next to Buckingham Palace.
“One of the ladies from the BWRDC said ‘you must meet Sir Stirling Moss’ and it was one of the highlights for both Abbi and myself.
“Abbi just wants to race but it’s most important for her to have something to fall back on, which is why she’s very diligent with her school work.
“The karting does help her to work harder and to focus more because it teaches you discipline, respect for authority and it prepares you for the world at large in all its forms.
“But for now, Abbi is having fun by just racing and being involved, with the thought of becoming the foremost lady kart driver in the country.”