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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Simona De Silvestro ends Supercars career with P18 in Newcastle

Swiss racer Simona De Silvestro concluded her 3-years Australian stint with an emotional last race in Newcastle, before switching to a factory-role with Porsche.

This weekend’s Coates Hire Newcastle 500 marked the final Supercars Championship start for Simona De Silvestro as a full-time driver in the Australian premier racing series, as well as Kelly Racing’s Nissan programme.

De Silvestro's journey in Supercars started in 2016, as the former F1 test driver became the first woman to compete steadily in the series.

The scenic Newcastle street circuit was then the backdrop to the experienced Swiss racer emotional last weekend behind the wheel of the #78 Nissan Altima, after a tough season result-wise for the Kelly Racing driver.

The racetrack bumpy surface and combination of quick and tight corners required rigoruous suspension setups and De Silvestro's team seemed to have found some promising speed during the first practice session, where the Harvey Norman entry finished 16th fastest.

However, some changes in the wrong direction negatively affected the car balance and brought the 31-year old back to 23rd in the second session.

“We tried to do something different in that last practice session because we had a lot of understeer but it actually just made it worse, it was definitely a difficult session wrestling with the car a lot. We just tuned it a little bit out of the window.” - she commented at the end of the first day.

“But it was good to try something different but definitely the way we went today wasn’t good so we’ll reset for tomorrow and see how it goes.”

Following setup changes overnight, De Silvestro managed to gain some speed and finished Saturday's first qualifying in P20, ahead of the penultimate race of the season.

In a relatively clean race, the Red Bull Holden duo drove off to what appeared to be a 1-2 finish for Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, ahead of championship leader Scott McLaughlin. The latter tried an unconventional strategy and pitted as soon as on lap 7, but the Red Bull team refused to react and pitted instead their drivers on lap 16 and 32, leaving McLaughlin in the position to undercut both his competitors.

The race classification would return to the initial order after the second pit, due to the longer fuel stop by the Shell-Penske crew.

But the real set-back for the Red Bull squad came on lap 75, when Jamie Whincup went deep into turn one and rejoined in 8th place, losing vital points in the team's championship battle.

Van Gisbergen took home his fifth championship win of the season, but his teammate costly error resulted in a 66 points loss in favor of the Shell-V-Power Penske team, which clinched a double podium.

As all the Nissan Altimas struggled in their penultimate Supercars appearance, Simona De Silvestro recovered one position and finished P19 but was left frustrated by a 3-stop strategy that eventually didn't pay off as expected.

“Unfortunately today just didn’t go our way at all, we struggled with the car in qualifying and started further back than we would have liked but I actually got a pretty good start and picked up quite a few places before we pitted quite early to go with the undercut.” - she explained.

“We were expecting the tyre degradation to be quite bad, which it was during the first few laps. So we committed to doing a three stop strategy based on the fact the tyre life wasn’t great but later in the race the tyre life was ok and we could have gotten away with two stops like a lot of the field but we already committed to doing three with how the fuel was spread out. It just didn’t go our way but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Sunday's season finale on the challenging Newcastle street circuit started with a first lap incident bewteen Lee Holdsworth and David Reynolds: the latter was pushed against the outside barriers at the first corner by an aggressive Scott Pye, leaving Holdsworth with no chance to avoid the car in front. With heavy damages, both drivers saw their races compromised, while poleman Whincup held off the attacks of Fabian Coulthard and kept the lead of the race.

Jamie Whincup recovered from the first race mistake and went on to take the victory ahead of Coulthard and a remarkable Tim Slade.

Scott McLaughlin finished the championship-winning season with a fourth place, while Shane Van Gisbergen moved up through the field after taking the start from 21st on the grid: the New-Zealander passed Waters, Hazelwood and Percat in the final stint and crossed the line in P7.

Despite Team Red Bull's fifth consecutive win, Whincup's performance wasn't ultimately enough to secure the team's championship, which went into the hands of Shell-V Power team Penske.

Simona De Silvestro completed the 93 laps after struggling with pace since the second qualifying. She managed to avoid the first laps contacts and eventually gained some places to finish 18th.

“In some ways I’m happy to be finishing the season because it has been pretty tough all year with the results we’ve had but at the same time I’m sad to be leaving the team and Supercars." - Simona said.

"It was pretty emotional over the last few laps, finishing my Supercars career, there’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs but I’m definitely going to take back some great memories with me.”

“It’s been great to be lucky enough to race here thanks to Harvey Norman and hopefully I left a little bit of a good thing here and who knows maybe one day I’ll be back.”

The lady from Thun was announced as Test and Development driver for the Porsche Formula E team and is expected to take on a factory role with the German manufacturer in Europe.

In Simona's words:

"It was pretty emotional over the last few laps, finishing my Supercars career, there’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs but I’m definitely going to take back some great memories with me.”

Ph credits: Kelly Racing



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