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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 the Bathurst 1000, 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 10 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 10 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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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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