Simona De Silvestro has career best finish in Pukekohe
Simona De Silvestro completed the New-Zealander weekend with a career-best 7th in Sunday's Supercars race.
Australian premier-motorsport series Supercars made this weekend its annual visit to New Zealand to contest the ITM Auckland Supersprint.
Swiss experienced racer Simona De Silvestro was very confident for a a good result, as Pukekohe Park is a circuit she finds fun to drive and likes coming back to. On Friday, though, the teams found very challenging conditions after the intermittent showers affected the first free practice session and the drivers enjoyed minimal track-time.
"Today was a bit challenging for us, practice one it rained so nobody really learnt anything so we were pretty much starting fresh in practice two.” - explained De Silvestro on Friday.
“The car was ok, we just struggled a little bit with understeer in the car and trying to figure out a way to get rid of that so I think we have a bit of work to do because majority of us are not where we want to be so we’ll try and fix the few issues we have for tomorrow.”
Few overnight changes did come on the #78 Harvey Norman Nissn Altima, but De Silvestro wasn't particularly pleased with the outcome for qualifying: she would have to start the first race from 23rd, on the last row.
Shane Van Gisbergen led a Red Bull Holden 1-2 in the opening race, with Jamie Whincup losing his second place post-race for a contact with Nick Percat. Whincup started from 12th on the grid and had made a stunning recovery to finish on the podium, just as third-placed Will Davison was also demoted to ninth for speeding in the pitlane.
Simona De Silvestro's team Kelly Racing managed to unlock some speed between qualifying and race, which put De Silvestro in the position to fight for a top-15. After the 70 laps around the 2910 metres-long raceway, Simona crossed the line in sixteenth place, among the highest Nissan's finishers.
“We found some pace between qualifying and the race today and were able to pick up a few spots." - said De Silvestro. "We changed one thing from practice to qualifying and it had a made a big difference the wrong way and the car had a lot of understeer, but fortunately the car was quite good for the race.”
“I’m pretty happy with how it went, we got a bit unlucky with the safety car just having to go around one more time before pitting, we stayed out for a long stint to see if it would rain, unfortunately it didn’t, but we had good pace, now tomorrow we just need to have a good qualifying and we’ll be alright."
Sunday's second qualifying did see some improvements for the #78 entry, but the real highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly the 24th race of the Supercars season.
After a chaotic race, Scott McLaughlin took his 17th seasonal race win following a controversial Safety Car procedure: Jamie Whincup, who had lead the early stages of the race, was picked by the pace car as the race leader wrongfully after he had made his pitstop and decided to overtake the Safety Car. This resulted in an obvious penalty, while also most of the top-10 positions were altered: other front-runners such as Holdsworth, Waters and Davison were also bumped outside the leading positions.
On the other hand, it turned out to be a lucky turn of events for De Silvestro, who brought her Nissan Altima up to P7 and was able to hold position for the rest of the race despite some quick competitors behind her. The Swiss lady thus scored her first Supercars top-10 finish after a challenging season.
“It’s a really good result for me today, with our cars when we crack the top ten it’s good so I’m really happy." - said De Silvestro. "Definitely things went a little our way with the safety car but once we were there we were right and that’s really what counts.”
“Huge thanks to Gio for getting the car just where I wanted it and just continuously working on fine tuning it for me to drive quick. Today is proof that we’re going in the right direction, I’m really happy with the team, we’re all working really hard and it’s cool for everyone to get a positive result, hard work pays off.”
Australian Supercars will now head to the SuperCheap Auto Bathurst 1000, one of the series crown jewels, in a four weeks time.
Ph credits: Kelly Racing