Simona De Silvestro’s neck was a worn-out mess after her first NTT IndyCar Series road course outing since April of 2015. The Paretta Autosport driver logged 20 laps around Road America’s blindingly fast 4.0-mile road course on Friday, and aside from needing to knock off a ton of rust, the Swiss ace also got reacclimatized to the physical toll an Indy car has on the body.
“My head was rolling around and under braking it was wanting to go forward, so it was a big adjustment, but it was great being back here,” she told RACER. De Silvestro’s kept busy racing GT cars for Porsche of late, and with the return to 700-plus horsepower and nearly 5000 pounds of downforce to glue the No. 16 Chevy to the track in the corners, Friday’s session had more to do with rediscovering the Dallara DW12 chassis than producing record-breaking speeds.
“The first few laps, I think I was turning in very early everywhere, because the Indy car definitely turns faster than a GT car,” she explained. “So it was just getting all my timings a bit right, and towards the end of the session I definitely felt better.”
As expected, De Silvestro was 27th fastest in the 27-car field, but there was a promising note as she was just 1.01s off of teammate Rinus VeeKay who was 22nd on Friday. Significant changes and evolutions in Firestone’s road course tires since De Silvestro’s last outing seven years ago also took some time to process.
“The big thing you need to learn is when to use the tires at the right time to get the best from them,” she said. “So those are all things that I really need to try to be on top of for tomorrow in qualifying, and I’m just trying to get up to speed and not abuse the tires. This has been fun and it definitely feels fast.”
Separate from Paretta Autosport’s road racing debut with Ed Carpenter Racing, De Silvestro says she’s received nothing but love from Road America’s passionate IndyCar fans.
“It’s been really cool,” she said. “You know, I think — especially in Road America — when you see…camping and all that going on, it’s really special and I feel really welcomed. I think everyone is happy for me and now I just want to get back to where I was. Hopefully I can make all of them proud out there as well.”