18-year-old racecar driver tears up tracks
For 18-year-old racecar driver Simona De Silvestro, her love of cars was cemented at a very young age. As a little girl, her favourite kind of television didn’t involve any Muppets or plodding purple dinosaurs — it featured substance of a slightly more accelerated pace.
“Since I was born, I was watching the Grand Prix on the TV with my dad,” De Silvestro recalls. “My mom was always trying to put me in sports like tennis or soccer, but I always wanted to race.”
At the ripe old age of four, the Switzerland native was already itching to get behind the wheel. She remembers bursting into tears because her legs couldn’t reach the pedals of a go-kart her father had at his car dealership. “We went back every two weeks to see if I could touch the pedals,” she laughs.
Just one year later (with her legs finally of sufficient length), De Silvestro’s parents bought her a go-kart of her own, jumpstarting her racing career. At 16, she made the transition over to cars, training and racing while also attending high school.
After graduating high school, De Silvestro hopped across the pond, moving to Indianapolis so she could devote herself wholeheartedly to the racetrack. “Why not concentrate 100 per cent on what I want to do?” she reasoned. “I went away from Europe to do the American dream.”
Landing in the States, De Silvestro finished her rookie year with a fourth place standing in the Formula BMW USA championship. She also became the first woman driver ever in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to have a podium finish. “(When I) take my helmet off, people see the long hair come out and they’re surprised,” she says amusedly.
This year, De Silvestro has ratcheted it up a notch by competing in the Champ Car Atlantic series, joining team Walker Racing. To team owner Derrick Walker, she has great potential but what he admires most is her dedication. “It was a courageous move to come over here,” he says. “She’s growing up fast in a tough environment and it’s a credit to her.”