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Lots of learning achieved for de Silvestro in debut Supercars season

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Former Verizon IndyCar Series standout Simona de Silvestro has endured somewhat of a global odyssey since her last full season of IndyCar competition in 2013.

She spent 2014 in an affiliation with Sauber F1 Team and tested older chassis with the goal of entering Formula 1 with them in 2015, but the two parted ways in the Fall of 2014.

She briefly rejoined the IndyCar ranks in 2015 and ran three races with Andretti Autosport (St. Petersburg, NOLA Motorsports Park, and the Indianapolis 500) before entering a pair of Formula E outings at the London ePrix double-header in 2015 – the final events of the inaugural Formula E season – also with Andretti Autosport. That sparked a full-season effort in the 2015-16 campaign with the same squad, dubbed Amlin Andretti Formula E at the time.

However, the 2017 season saw a complete change in direction for the 29-year-old native of Switzerland, who has spent her career in mostly open wheel categories, as she joined the Supercars Championship, commonly referred to as V8 Supercars, in Australia. Having had a taste of Supercars competition in 2015 and 2016 after entries into Bathurst 1000 those years, she spent the 2017 season with Nissan Motorsport, her first full-season foray that did not involve an open wheel machine.

On paper, the season appeared to be a struggle, as she had a best finish of only 15th. However, she appeared to make progress at every round, with the season-ending Newcastle 500 likely her best outing of the year, as she battled inside the top ten and looked set to finish sixth before wall contact on the final lap relegated her to 20th.

Race 2 showed positive signs as well, as she ran near the top 1o before a spin dropped her through the field, leaving her to finish 17th.

However, in an article posted on Australian news outlet Speedcafe, de Silvestro expressed a sense of optimism after ending the season with a strong performance, even if the finishing position did not ultimately reflect it.

“This is really positive for next year to end this season with such good pace,” she said following the weekend. “I had a strong car for most of Sunday afternoon and was able to pass a few cars, which was cool. But unfortunately, we got turned around by a pretty silly move, which ruined our day. The car was really strong this weekend, so I’m annoyed we didn’t record the results that reflected that pace.”

De Silvestro added that the Newcastle venue, new to the Supercars championship this year, proved beneficial as it meant her lack of familiarity with the tracks – she saw nearly all of them for the first time this year – was not nearly as much of a handicap as in previous races since everyone needed to learn the circuit.

“I think the biggest thing from the weekend was that everyone started from a level playing field. Because the track was new, we were able to be more in the mix and not start behind the ball. The track also suited me quite well. I really enjoyed it,” she explained.

De Silvestro, who finished 24th in the championship in 2017, is slated to remain with Nissan Motorsport in 2018 for her sophomore Supercars campaign.

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MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne