Monday, March 28, 2011

THE STARTING GRID … How One Woman Single-Handedly Shifted the WOMEN IN MOTORSPORTS Conversation from HOTTIE to HOT TALENT

Simona De Silvestro
changes the conversation 
2011 Honda Grand Prix of St.Petersburg 
Simona De Silvestro hails from a country where auto racing has been banned since the 1955 Le Mans Disaster.  Nonetheless, this Swiss native knew at a very early age that racing was her passion.  Today, at 22, she is making a name for herself as one of racing's brightest young stars.

Simona was the story of the day at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as she fought the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and perennial title threat, Tony “TK” Kanaan, to a fourth place finish during the final laps of the IZOD IndyCar season opener
Starting from the 17th position, Simona miraculously avoided the six-car pile-up in Turn 1 of the first lap.  Lap by lap she pushed her No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing car forward through a race pocked with early crashes and restarts.  At one point she climbed to second place, behind the eventual race winner and three-time defending IndyCar Series champion, Dario Franchitti.

Overcoming disappointing practice sessions (combined practice results : Time 01:04.3021/Speed: 100.781 mph), and losing her engineer, Michael Cannon to Tony Kanaan just the Friday before the race, Simona and her team worked hard to qualify 17th in the field   (Qualifying Time of 01.03.2724/Speed 102.414 mph).

During race day morning’s practice session, something started to click between the young driver and her new engineer, Brent Harvey.   They were "tuned-in”  …  and so was their car.  Even though the team was starting from the 17th position, the team knew the “race was on”!

Suddenly the conversation shifted as Simona was still running hard during the final five flaps, battling TK, one of the most consistent and fearless drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series, to the finish nearly overtaking him during the final seconds of the race.

Reporters and photographs watching the race in the Mahaffey Theater Media Room cheered both drivers through the tight corners.  Suddenly, the conversation changed gears regarding women in motorsports.  Suddenly, the conversation was no longer about  “media sizzle” or “man vs. woman”.  Suddenly, and thankfully, the conversation was now about “driver vs. driver” as the group united in standing ovation celebrating a race well fought.

Admirably, Simona De Silvestro is committed to creating a new legacy for female athletes of all sporting disciplines who face a constant battle with commercial forces to not compromise their class and dignity in order to satisfy a male dominated marketplace. 

Track Chic was privileged to speak with Simona in the KV Racing Team transporter prior to the race.  When asked if she thought progress was being made she answered simply and straightforwardly:

“I think we are. It’s a choice we all have to make every day.  As long as we continue to make the right choice, the road will be easier for the female athletes in the future.”

Thanks, Simona.  Your performance and professionalism bring positive influence to the motorsport conversation.  The “World’s Fastest Spring Break Party” is the starting grid for a new direction.  Progress is being made, lap by lap.

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