Open Wheel — 25 March 2011

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Stellar as that Indianapolis 500 run was and scary as that fiery Texas crash appeared, Simona de Silvestro hopes her second IndyCar Series season provides even more excitement.

The Swiss driver definitely has more than her share of anticipation following a promising debut that didn’t surprise her all that much — not even the 14th-place Indy run that claimed rookie of the year honors. Top-10 finishes in races at Toronto and Mid-Ohio merely reinforced her road-course credentials, and have her eager to maintain her upward trajectory in Sunday’s season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where de Silvestro was 16th in just her second series start a year ago.

  • ENTRY LIST: IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
  • SCHEDULE: 2011 Izod IndyCar races
  • “I think (my goals) have moved because it’s going to be my second year, and I think last year, we showed that we were running quite well on the road courses,” said de Silvestro, who finished 19th in points and earned the Tony Renna Firestone Rising Star award.

    “And I think, having Entergy on board (as a full-time sponsor), it’s really going to have us getting near that next step. I have learned form my mistakes and I’m going to try to do less of them this year, and I think we have a good chance to be really up front, especially on the road courses.”

    Though she said this month’s test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama didn’t end as hoped for performance-wise, everything’s a work in progress for her and HVM Racing, which picked up support from the nuclear energy plant owner/operator in January. And as the 2010 season proved, de Silvestro knows how to hit the ground running.

    The road-course specialist led her only laps of the season (four) en route to finishing 16th in the opener at Sao Paulo, Brazil, setting an early-season tone in which she aimed to complete the first four events running before moving to the series’ oval portion highlighted by Indy’s 500-mile marathon, better known as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

    De Silvestro simply went with the flow in her first visit to the Brickyard, qualifying 22nd and hovering near the front of the pack before accepting a finish she’s now viewing as a building point for ovals.

    “It wasn’t really a surprise, but it was kind of a great achievement to be so far up for the first year as a rookie,” she said in January. “I’m excited to go back there and just take the race as it goes and that’s usually how the best result comes out of it.”

    Her aim this season is improving, most notably finishing, on the circuit’s other ovals, which proved difficult after Indy. De Silvestro’s next start at Texas Motor Speedway ended with her primary No. 78 Dallara/Honda into the wall and on fire for several harrowing moments while emergency workers tried to free her from the cockpit (she was unhurt).

    Four of her next five oval starts ended early for various reasons as well, though she closed the season running at the end of Homestead (23rd). In between were road- and street-course runs where she posted her best finishes and allows a good starting point where de Silvestro can focus on her specialty.

    She goes into this season comforted by more familiarity with her team and more resources to work with — the latter due in no small part to her emerging potential, a performance that at times eclipsed that of her more-famous contemporary, Danica Patrick.

    “We discovered and saw the potential in Simona and we all were behind it and believed in her,” HVM owner Keith Wiggins said. “And of course now we found a partner (Entergy) that believes in what we can deliver with Simona{hellip}

    “And of course, leading on from that, it gives us as a team the reassurance, knowing where we are going for the next couple of years and the planning that allows us to do on the technical perspective, and just getting ourselves organized and building. We know we can do it.”


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