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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Why de Silvestro’s Bathurst wildcard might result in a Supercars comeback

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Simona de Silvestro makes no secret of her unfinished enterprise in Supercars. She stated as a lot instantly after her take care of Dick Johnson Racing, which can see her make a one-off return for the Bathurst 1000, was made public.

“I feel there’s at all times unfinished enterprise,” she stated. “After I have a look at my three years in Supercars I developed fairly effectively within the three years, however the automobile I used to be in, you already know, wasn’t capable of be the place it needs to be.

“Getting this chance, coming again to Bathurst is one factor, however coming again with this staff… I wish to work even tougher to get a great consequence. Unfinished enterprise, it’s at all times there. You wish to be profitable and present what you are able to do whenever you’re in a race automobile.”

Racing drivers blaming a scarcity of efficiency is nothing new. Neither is lamenting that lack of alternative to shine in the suitable {hardware}. Within the case of de Silvestro’s previous Supercars profession, she does have an argument to mount.

De Silvestro was initially imported into Supercars in 2015, because the class eyed a greater deal with on a feminine demographic. It discovered a eager supporter of the concept in Katie Web page, CEO of retail big Harvey Norman. Supercars positioned de Silvestro at Tickford Racing in a wildcard entry for the Bathurst 1000, paired with the comparatively inexperienced Renee Gracie.

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The Tickford FG-X Falcons have been speedy that season, however the ‘Tremendous Women’ as they have been identified, have been up towards it. For starters, Bathurst is as robust a circuit as there’s to attempt to get your head round a model new automobile. And realistically, Gracie was unlikely to carry out at a degree wanted to duplicate the success of Triple Eight’s X-Field wildcard in 2013, for instance. The Tremendous Women automobile completed twenty first, 40 laps down, after Gracie hit the wall at Forrests Elbow.

A yr later the duo returned, this time in an extra Nissan Motorsport entry. Armed with extra expertise they put in an admirable efficiency, coming dwelling 14th and two laps down.

After two cameo outings with Gracie, de Silvestro landed a full-time deal for 2017 however the Nissan was by no means aggressive

Picture by: Daniel Kalisz / Motorsport Images

Forward of that second Bathurst look, Supercars swooped on a extra everlasting declare to de Silvestro. It was introduced that she had signed with Supercars, not a particular staff, on a three-year settlement to race within the sequence. That the Tremendous Women programme had moved from Tickford to Nissan was a good trace of what the long run held, and on the finish of the season Dale Wood moved on from Nissan to make manner for de Silvestro.

It was a good coup for what was at that time nonetheless a factory-backed staff. De Silvestro arrived with all of her funding in place, plus that contemporary advertising angle of being the one feminine driver within the area. It was a win for the staff. It wasn’t, nonetheless, a lot of a win for the motive force.

The Nissan Altima package deal was by no means frequently aggressive in Supercars. As a producer, Nissan had been first to hitch Ford and Holden beneath the Automobile of the Future rules. It’s quad cam V8 (taken from a Patrol four-wheel-drive) struggled for gas effectivity and energy, and was by no means given an opportunity to catch the extra confirmed models. Classes have been learnt when Volvo joined a yr later and the S60 was instantly aggressive. However that didn’t assist the poor {old} Nissans.

That de Silvestro feels she has unfinished enterprise in Supercars isn’t simply clear in her phrases, however her actions. She has clearly been on the entrance foot with placing collectively a wildcard this yr

The Altima struggled sufficient towards its fellow COTF vehicles, however took a good greater blow when the ZB Commodore introduced within the Gen2 period in 2018. A yr later the Gen2 Mustang adopted swimsuit, and the Altima was effectively and really out-classed. Supercars tried to assist with little modifications like permitting composite panels just like the ZB and the Mustang, nevertheless it was nonetheless an uphill battle.

De Silvestro’s three full-time seasons yielded a twenty fourth (2017), a twenty third (2018) and a nineteenth (2019) within the factors. She completed within the high 10 in simply two races. It was a tricky slog, by no means helped by the competitiveness of the Nissan. In that manner, de Silvestro has a degree when she says she was by no means in profitable {hardware}. On the similar time, solely as soon as did she end forward of any of the opposite three Nissan drivers within the standings – in 2019, when Garry Jacobson struggled to twenty third. The likes of Rick Kelly, Michael Caruso and Andre Heimgartner at all times had the sting.

In all of this, there’s a sliding doorways second. In 2018, Triple Eight determined to have a crack at touchdown de Silvestro and her Harvey Norman backing. There have been rumours of the staff plotting a feminine all-star deal that will be run by Jess Dane and engineered by Romy Mayer. The entire thing bought superior sufficient that T8 freed up its third entry by encouraging veteran Craig Lowndes to announce his impending retirement halfway by way of the season. That was till one of many backers of the de Silvestro deal pulled out on the eleventh hour.

Triple Eight scaled again to 2 vehicles for 2019 and de Silvestro stayed at Nissan, now a non-factory outfit working beneath the Kelly Racing banner, for that closing yr earlier than heading again to Europe. Would de Silvestro have been bashing doorways with Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen in a 3rd T8 automobile in 2019? That is likely to be a little bit of a stretch. However simply including to her lean tally of high 10s would have been greater than achievable.

De Silvestro was linked with a switch to Triple Eight for 2019, but it never happened

De Silvestro was linked with a change to Triple Eight for 2019, nevertheless it by no means occurred

Picture by: Dirk Klynsmith

That de Silvestro feels she has unfinished enterprise in Supercars isn’t simply clear in her phrases, however her actions. She has clearly been on the entrance foot with placing collectively a wildcard this yr. Initially there have been talks with Walkinshaw Andretti United about partnering Warren Luff in a 3rd entry. When the staff determined it didn’t have the assets for a wildcard, consideration turned to Dick Johnson Racing.

The well-known Ford staff noticed it as a chance to provide teenager Kai Allen, believed to be on DJR’s books already, a shot on the Bathurst 1000, because it appears to the post-Will Davison period. Viva Power, which has the keys to the Shell branding in Australia, appreciated the concept, and the de Silvestro/Allen entry got here to life. Provided that Scott McLaughlin received two titles in Shell Fords throughout de Silvestro’s stint in Supercars, it’s little surprise she sees this return as her greatest shot but in Supercars.

“100%, when you have a look at what the staff has achieved, they’ve achieved wonderful issues,” she stated. “Even for me to get this chance is kind of particular. It’s the proper strategy to come again into Supercars. If we do our job proper, we are able to actually have a shot at it. And for us drivers that’s a very powerful factor.”

What de Silvestro can’t underestimate is that issues have modified down right here in Australia. For starters, it’s not DJR Workforce Penske anymore. The would possibly of Penske is gone and neither Anton De Pasquale nor Davison have been true title contenders prior to now two seasons.

It’s been a tricky begin to the Gen3 period for the staff, too. There are parity points with the Mustang, which isn’t a match for the Camaro on rear tyre life. The staff itself has had patchy kind too, struggling even towards the opposite Ford groups most of the time. De Pasquale does maintain the one Ford race win of the season to date, however that got here with a bit of luck with tyre technique in Townsville. The fact is that it received’t fairly be the identical for de Silvestro as if she’d jumped in a DJR Ford for a crack at Bathurst in, say, 2020.

Given how arduous she has clearly labored for this one-off shot at Supercars redemption, the logical query is whether or not she would ever make a full-time return. It’s in no way a far-fetched idea. The Supercars drivers market is at the moment in a weird place. Because it stands, there’s prone to be a seat open at de Silvestro’s {old} staff.

The Nissan days are lengthy gone and the squad, now fielding Mustangs, is owned and run by the bold Grove household. The Groves wish to be title contenders and have loads of monetary firepower. In addition they have a fascination with Porsche and its motorsport programme, which de Silvestro is at the moment tied to as a check and reserve driver for its System E arm.

After which in fact there’s the curious case of the Triple Eight emptiness for subsequent yr, when van Gisbergen jets off to NASCAR. With Cam Waters staying at Tickford, and most different large names beneath contract, the powerhouse staff at the moment faces both needing to purchase somebody out of one other deal (suppose Brodie Kostecki or Will Brown), revive the full-time profession of Jamie Whincup (not not possible), or go for a left-field possibility like Richie Stanaway. Or Simona de Silvestro.

DJR is no longer the force it was during its days allied with Penske, and its Mustang has struggled relative to the Camaro

DJR is not the power it was throughout its days allied with Penske, and its Mustang has struggled relative to the Camaro

Picture by: Edge Photographics

If she performs at Bathurst, maybe amends could possibly be made for her brush with the staff in 2018. After all it will be a harder proposition this time round, merely as Gen3 has levelled the taking part in area. Triple Eight remains to be certainly one of, if not the, greatest groups within the lane. However that doesn’t include the ludicrous automobile velocity benefit that it as soon as did.

So, is de Silvestro open to a different stint Down Below?

“I feel when folks know my profession, they know I normally attempt to go the place the perfect alternative is,” she stated when posed that very query. “I’m the kind of one that by no means says by no means. If the chance is correct to be in a aggressive automobile, it’s at all times one thing to contemplate.

“In the meanwhile I’m in a great place with Porsche, however on the finish of the day I wish to win races and be aggressive. So no matter comes, by no means say by no means.”

De Silvestro isn't ruling out the prospect of another stint down under, and a competitive showing at Bathurst may put her on team bosses shopping lists

De Silvestro is not ruling out the prospect of one other stint down beneath, and a aggressive displaying at Bathurst could put her on staff bosses procuring lists

Picture by: Dirk Klynsmith



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