A new world: Simona de Silvestro's introduction to Supercars
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Packing up your belongings and crossing the world to take up an opportunity in a racing series that bears no resemblance to anything you’ve raced before might sound like running the gauntlet, but for Simona de Silvestro it is her reality.
Crossing from the motorsport worlds in Europe and America to the very different scene in Australia earlier this year, de Silvestro has had to adapt her skill set to try and quickly get up to speed with a range of new tracks and one of the most unique types of race car in the world; the big four-door V8-powered Supercar.
“[The car] is a little bit weird, but I feel like we done quite a lot of progress throughout the year,” de Silvestro told Radio Sport in a recent interview.
“I think it showed at Bathurst, because it was really the only track I knew from the past and we had really good pace. When I crashed we were running eighth or something like that.
“It’s quite tricky for example coming to New Zealand [when] there's no knowing the track. That makes it tricky for the first year, but luckily I'm here as well next year, so I think that will make life a little easier.”
The 29-year-old Swiss ace has spent most of her racing career anchored in open wheelers. From early years racing in feeder classes she became a test driver for Formula 1 team Sauber and a regular in IndyCar and FIA Formula E.
“Growing up in Europe and doing mostly road courses — it's something I liked most. But if you get a chance to run at the Indy 500 it's quite a special feeling. It is quite fast, and when something happens it bites and it hurts, but it's definitely a big adrenaline when you're running there.
“[Formula 1] was quite special, because many drivers dream of that. Getting the chance to do that was quite cool and I really really enjoyed that.”
With just two rounds of the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship to go (this weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint and then the Coates Hire Newcastle 500), de Silvestro sits 24th in the standings following a year littered with ‘what ifs’.
Competing in Nissan Motorsport’s Harvey Norman No. 78 entry, she has edged closer and closer to cracking a top-10 finish. And last month’s Supercheap Auto 1000 was the closest she had come yet.
With co-driver David Russell, the pair spent much of the race as one of the two leading Nissan Altimas on track. And with the end in sight de Silvestro sat in a credible eighth. But, a crash at the final corner in the closing laps ended those chances.
“It was a bit of a disappointment for myself because it was a mistake I did. It was a tricky race in general. I think until that point me and David [Russell] held our own pretty well, and we were moving forward. So that was a real positive.”
De Silvestro arrives in New Zealand (a first in her career) hoping to continue to build momentum for next year’s campaign, on what will be the 19th anniversary of the last time a woman competed in the Supercars Championship (represented by Perkins Engineering part-timers Melinda Price and Kerryn Brewer).
“It's always a funny question because that's all I know. Every series that I've raced in, most of the time I'm the only girl. […] That's who I am. It's great to get the attention for it, but at the same time I think there's a little bit of pressure because everyone is always watching what you're doing.
“I'm used to it and it's great to be the first female full time in Supercars. Hopefully I can get some good results that can inspire more girls to get into racing.”
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