Just to qualify for the Indy 500 – and
comfortably – was a huge achievement
for de Silvestro in extremely arduous
circumstances. (BELOW LEFT) With race
engineer Brent Harvey (on right).
F. Peirce Williams/LAT
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The ovals that shook her remain on the
returning. She’s still got it, shall we say.
We saw the same person we usually see
at the track. She was 95 percent in terms
of her buoyancy and positive attitude.
“I don’t think we have a problem on
road courses, but we’re still going to
come back needing experience on ovals.
The main thing she needs is a string of
good performances on road courses then
some good, sensible runs on ovals. I
definitely see that she’s been through a
difficult time, but she’s back to where
she was. There’s a good, positive vibe.”
with typical candor. “I’ve never been in a
situation like this. It’s the toughest
thing I’ve ever been through. It’s a lot to
deal with. I’m just trying to work on
everything I can and learn from this. I’m
stronger than I was before, and that has
a lot to do with the people around me.
It’s been a tough situation for everybody.
The way we started the season, we never
thought we’d be in this situation. The
biggest thing is to process it and come
out of it was quickly as we can.”
The processing began in Toronto as
de Silvestro returned to her comfort zone
of street/road course racing with a 10th
that could have been fourth if not for two
extra pit stops due to a fuel-feed problem.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO
“I think we can put her back where
she was in the first four races of the
season, driving-wise. That’s kind of our
baseline,” Perona said. “There were some
things at Toronto that we didn’t do well,
and still a little bit more trust has to
come back, but by the time she gets to
New Hampshire, I think she’ll be
confident about returning to ovals. It’s
quite a challenge when you think
the best female driver in IndyCar racing? Could she one day be a championship
contender? How far would she go? Penske? Ganassi? Formula 1, even?
Then came the crash and burn, her second escape from
flames in less than a year, that turned her story from one of
potential to one of courage and recovering confidence. During
practice at Indy, her car flipped, skidded on its roll hoop,
slammed into the Turn 4 wall and – worst of all – caught fire.
She unbuckled and pulled herself out, but in doing so placed
her hands on fuel-soaked, burning asphalt and sustained
second-degree burns on both hands.
The story didn’t end there. She returned, hands wrapped in
gauze and gloves, and qualified her (to put it politely) well-seasoned back-up car 23rd, but was classified 31st in the race
after yet another brush with the wall. Still just being in the
event was a triumphant recovery, or so we thought. Three
weeks later, after staring down Texas, where she’d crashed and
caught fire the previous year, she crashed while qualifying at
Milwaukee. She raced, but brought the car back to the pits after
just 11 laps with a handling problem. Her nerves were shot, but
there was more to the story. She had a concussion. She had a
cut on a knee. Her hands were still tender. She had a persistent
cough. She was not well. Worst of all, her confidence was
bruised. She sat out the following race at Iowa, and the team,
along with Simona, wondered if she would recover her mojo.
“I definitely think right now I’m in a crossroads,” she says
“The way we started
the season, we
never thought we’d
be in this situation”
horizon (the real test, she says, will be
New Hampshire in August), but she’s on
the mend and getting better each day.
Her recovery has surprised those who
work closest with her at HVM Racing.
“Plenty of drivers go through bad
crashes and have to recover from them,
but not many of them deal with fire in
this day and age,” says Keith Wiggins,
HVM Racing’s team owner. “The fire was
very unfortunate. She did go through
some areas of ‘I don’t know’ about ovals
after that, but she understands they’re
part of the deal. At Toronto she was just
about there. You could see her confidence
Wiggins and crew chief Brian Fellows have found themselves taking near- paternal interest in their driver.