Motorsport: Passion beats pain for Swiss in monster crash

By Eric Thompson

There are two remarkable things about IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro, who races in her second Indianapolis 500 on Monday morning (NZ time).

First, the 22-year-old Swiss grew up in a country where motor racing has been banned since 1955, and had to leave home at 17 to pursue her passion.

The second is that just two days after a monster crash during practice, that saw her car twisting in the air before crashing back on the track in flames, De Silvestro qualified.

"After the crash I was really shaken up," De Silvestro told the Indianapolis Star.

"I didn't know if I want to do this, especially on the ovals. They really scare me."

Not only did she make the grid in 24th spot for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing", De Silvestro did it in her 2003 backup car 5km/h faster than in the HVM Racing No1 car.

And, to make things more difficult, she had to pilot the car at nearly 360km/h with second-degree burns on her hands.

De Silvestro told the Weekend Herald how she managed to get a gig in IndyCars.

"It's a dream come true for me to be racing in IndyCar.

"I worked really hard to be here and sacrificed a lot but it's really paying off now, and I want to be remembered as a really good IndyCar driver.

"I did my first test in 2009 and it went quite well and everyone liked how I worked and I was pretty quick. I supposed you'd really have to ask the team why they picked me."

What makes De Silvestro's qualifying run even more remarkable is that one of the patriarchal families of IndyCar Racing, Andretti Racing, could only qualify three of their five cars - and one of those spots was bought from AJ Foyt.

De Silvestro will be in 24th spot when the flag drops with the three other women drivers in the field - Danica Patrick, Pippa Mann and Anna Beatriz - in 26th, 32nd and 33rd respectively.

"Qualifying is the most nervous part of the whole time with so many cars trying to qualify," she said.

De Silvestro won the Indy 500 rookie of the year in 2010 after finishing 14th.

Under her belt

2011

* Best finish: 4th at Saint Petersburg.

2010

* Two top-10 finishes with a best of eighth at Mid-Ohio.

* Named Chase Rookie of the Year for 14th-place finish at Indianapolis.

2009

* Finished third in Atlantic Championship with four wins, four poles and nine podium finishes in 12 starts.

* Winningest female driver in series history.

2006

* Scored two third-place finishes at the US Grand Prix and became the first woman to ever earn a podium result at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

www.simonadesilvestro.com

- NZ Herald

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