All-female Bathurst team hits back at Dick johnson
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Yet to hit the track, the all-female V8 Supercars team at the Bathurst 1000 have already sought a big scalp, firing back at outspoken critic Dick Johnson.
Ahead of Thursday’s first practice session, Renee Gracie and ex-Sauber F1 test driver Simona de Silvestro vowed to prove three-time Bathurst champion Johnson wrong and do their utmost to contend for an historic podium finish in the Great Race on Mount Panorama this weekend.
Swiss star de Silvestro and Queensland youngster Gracie accepted a wild card entry to become the first all-female team at Bathurst since 1998.
But five-time V8 series champion Johnson dismissed their Mount Panorama quest, saying they were a “million to one” and wouldn’t go close to finishing the 161-lap epic on Sunday.
Gracie on Wednesday provided a not so subtle reminder to Johnson that he had also had his share of racing heartache - particularly at Bathurst.
His troubles on the mountain started way back in 1980 when his Dick Johnson Racing (DJR) team debut was famously cut short by a boulder allegedly thrown onto the track.
“Dick Johnson hasn’t finished heaps of races so he can’t talk,” said Gracie.
De Silvestro - one of only three women to notch an IndyCar podium - said it would be good to silence the knockers.
Simona de Silvestro
“Because the attention is on us, if we don’t finish it would be a shame,” she said.
“There are others who won’t either. “But I think we will prove them (critics) wrong.”
In all, 31 women have contested the Bathurst 1000 with a best placing of sixth by Australia’s Christine Gibson (1981) and France’s Marie-Claude Beaumont (1975). Gracie and de Silvestro will become the 15th all-female entry in the Great Race.
All the ingredients are there for the pair to become the first women to feature on a Bathurst podium.
They will pilot a Ford Falcon run by two-time Bathurst 1000 defending champions Prodrive Racing Australia.
Asked if she dared to dream of a top-three finish, de Silvestro said: “It’s a long race, anything can happen.”
Considered one of the world’s best female drivers, de Silvestro races in IndyCar for Andretti Autosport and will contest next season’s FIA Formula E series. Gracie competes in Australia’s second-tier V8 development series.
“When I race in the US, Bathurst is something everyone watches,” de Silvestro said.
“I saw it for the first time in 2006 in the US and always thought that would be a really cool race to do.
“Looking at the mountain now, it’s impressive - I didn’t know it was that steep.” Gracie hoped they inspired other women to get behind the wheel and race.
“If you love something don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it,” she said.