Former IndyCar and Formula E driver Simona de Silvestro has signed up to race in the touring car series known as the Australia Supercars Championship.
The 28-year-old Swiss driver has entered a 3-year agreement starting in 2017, making her the first full-time female driver in the sport. She’ll be racing as early as October when she hops behind the wheel of a Nissan Motorsport Nissan Altima in the Bathurst 1000, the highlight of the series. Her team for 2017 and beyond is yet to be announced.
de Silvestro’s signing was brokered under a deal that included sponsorship from retailer Harvey Norman and the state of South Australia. Why taxpayers are sponsoring a driver in the privately-owned series, let alone a driver that isn’t Australian, isn’t clear.
Organizers are hopeful of boosting viewership with de Silvestro’s participation, at a time when vehicle manufacturing is drying up in Australia. They’re also changing the rules to allow cars with turbocharged 4- and 6-cylinder engines from 2017, hence the recent name change from V8 Supercars to Australia Supercars Championship.
“I am very respectful towards this new challenge but at the same time I am very excited about driving in such a competitive championship,” de Silvestro said in a statement. “This is going to be my first full-time year with a closed top car and there a lot of new things for me to learn and adapt to.”