The now-V8-optional Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will feature one more big change next year: the addition of a woman. Swiss former IndyCar driver and F1 hopeful Simona de Silvestro signed a three-year agreement to become the first woman to race full-time in Aussie Supercars, starting in 2017.
Series backers are hoping De Silvestro will inspire more women to get involved in motorsport. South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell summed up the push in a series press release:
Simona’s nickname is the Iron Maiden and she is renowned for breaking records. This year she became the first female driver to score points in Formula E in Long Beach.
I have said many times the State Government wants to promote women in all sports and I hope Simona’s incredible talent helps to encourage more young girls and women to consider a career in motorsport.
While women have appeared in one-off Supercars drives before, none have competed for a full season. De Silvestro competed in Supercars last year at the series’ most infamous race, the Bathurst 1000. She’ll be back there this year with teammate Renee Gracie again, but next year, Supercars will be her full-time schedule.
Supercars is a bit of a boys’ club, with De Silvestro’s all-female team infamously being labeled a “pussy wagon” by another driver last year. That being said, the series’ high-speed mayhem is arguably Australia’s greatest export, so it’s about time the gender split in the paddock started to resemble that of humanity as a whole.
De Silvestro told the Gold Coast Bulletin that she obviously just wants the same thing as all the other competitors out there: to win.
I’m a woman, it’s part of the deal. I know it will create some extra attention but I’m used to that. It won’t be the first time I’ve been the only woman in a series.
And while I’m aware there aren’t many women racing, for me the main focus is results. This is my career.
De Silvestro’s first time driving a closed-top car was last year’s run at Bathurst, so while she has plenty of experience driving open-wheelers, it’s yet to be seen whether she’ll be competitive in Supercars. Either way, after her F1 hopes fizzled out amid 2015's ridiculous drama with Sauber, it’s good to see her finally get a chance at a stable ride for a while.