Former IndyCar and Formula E racer Simona De Silvestro is set to be a regular in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship for the next three years, having signed to race with that series’ factory Nissan team for the 2017 through ’19 seasons. The Swiss, who competed in the recent Bathurst race with Nissan, will make her debut as a full-timer in the factory Altima at next year’s Clipsal 500 season opener in Adelaide.
The 28-year old de Silvestro will be the first full-time female racer on the series grid in four decades, after signing with team owners Rick and Todd Kelly to drive alongside Michael Caruso.
“I’m really excited to be joining the team, and I can’t wait for next season,” De Silvestro said. “In joining Nissan Motorsport, I think the biggest thing is being a factory driver. It’s great to have the trust from Nissan Motorsport to give me the chance to drive for them.
“I really enjoyed driving for them at Bathurst, I really enjoyed the car, so there were a lot of things I really liked. And the team as well, it’s a great team, you see there’s a lot of potential in the team. So working with them hopefully will bring a lot of success.”
De Silvestro acknowledged she has a lot to learn about the Australia-based series.
“My expectations for next year? I think it’s going to be a pretty big challenge for me,” she admitted. “Most of my career has been in open-wheel. The Nissan Altima was feeling pretty great at Bathurst, so I’m sure at the other tracks I’m going to be able to adapt a lot quicker. Learning the tracks and working with the team will be a big challenge but (I’m) looking forward to it.”
2005 Bathurst winner Kelly worked closely with de Silvestro on the Harvey Normal Supergirls wild card entry (pictured), and looks forward to having her join the squad on a permanent basis.
“This is a big day for Nissan Motorsport,” said Kelly. “Simona’s performance at Bathurst this year was outstanding. You could see in the data the amount of potential in Simona. So next year will be very exciting. To have built a race team that can attract a driver of Simona’s international experience is a testament to the hard work of everyone here at Nissan Motorsport.
“I have been racing in Supercars since I was 17 years old and I’ve only really worked with cars from this category, so it’s great to now have someone who has experienced motorsport from all around the world. It’s exciting to be able to compare how we do things here to what Simona has experienced elsewhere.”
Richard Emery, Nissan Australia’s Managing Director and CEO, also expressed enthusiasm at having de Silvestro aboard, suggesting that her gender will be a boost to the manufacturer’s marketing efforts.
“Simona’s results and experience are impressive and she has already shown strong speed in our Nissan Altima at Bathurst,” he said. “2017 is now shaping to be our best so far and Simona’s arrival will add a new focus and energy.
“Nissan has a long history in motorsport, one of the few competitive sports where men and women compete head to head on equal terms. It’s important that Nissan and the wider automotive sector promote our industry and our vehicles as well as motorsport beyond traditional male audiences. We want to encourage more women to choose our industry as a career and sporting pathway. And by having Simona on our team we hope to achieve not only greater speed and results on the track.”
De Silvestro replaces 2013 Dunlop Series Champion Dale Wood at Nissan. Team owner Kelly thanked Wood for his commitment to the team after shifting from Brad Jones Racing for 2016.
“It has been a pleasure having Dale as part of our team this season,” said team Kelly. “Dale has been a great contributor to our progress throughout the season and has been an ever-present positive personality within the team.
“Todd and I, as well as the entire team are very thankful for his efforts and we wish him all the best for the future.”