Nissan wins race for Simona
- By Kassie Gadeke
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Simona De Silvestro will be stepping into a Nissan Altima come the 2017 Clipsal 500 Adelaide.
The international driver tackled Bathurst with Nissan Motorsport and today announced she will line up for the next three years with the factory squad in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
The 28-year old Swiss driver – who has raced Formula E, Indycar and impressed at Mount Panorama last month – will be the first female racer on the grid in four decades and has more than proved her worth on the world stage.
The announcement cements Nissan’s line-up for next year with team owners Rick and Todd Kelly to drive for the team again with recently confirmed Michael Caruso after months of speculation.
De Silvestro enjoyed her experience with Nissan last month and is thrilled to sign for a manufacturer-backed team as she begins her adventure Down Under.
“I’m really excited to be joining the team, and I can’t wait for next season," De Silvestro said from Zurich.
“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.”
She knows it won’t be an easy ask next year as she adapts to the team, the car and learns all the circuits on the calendar. The Newcastle street track will be the only circuit the other regular competitors won’t have experience racing.
“My expectations for next year in 2017: I think it’s going to be a pretty big challenge for me. Like I’ve said before, 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 looking forward to it.”
2005 Bathurst winner Todd Kelly worked closely with De Silvestro on the Harvey Normal Supergirls wild card entry, 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.”
Kelly has no doubt the group will learn from De Silvestro’s extensive experience too.
“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, was delighted to share today’s news.
“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.
Rick 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 co-owner Rick 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.”