Motorsport’s Iron Maiden has her sights set on long run in the Supercars

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    Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro has locked down a Supercars contract in 2017 - but how will she go? (AFP PHOTO / JOSE JORDAN)

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    Motorsport’s Iron Maiden isn’t promising it will happen overnight. But it will happen.

    Simona de Silvestro begins a three-year stint in the Supercars championship this weekend at the Clipsal 500.

    She’s seen the footage of last year’s race – won by backmarker Nick Percat – and is tempted to dream.

    Resisting the urge, she’s instead asked for patience from Nissan and Supercars fans as she switches to the Australian touring car championship.

    Her experience in IndyCar and as a Formula One test driver makes Supercars a whole new ball game.

    The Swiss racer switches from a career in bruise-free open wheel racing to the bash-and-crash of the Australian series and de Silvestro believes it’ll be a whole lot of fun in her Altima as well.

    “Here, there’s a lot of fighting out on track. I think that’s great. I really look forward to it,” she tells AAP.

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    “Since I’ve been 16 I’ve run an open wheel. I can forget everything I’ve learned and I’ve known and start from scratch.”

    Given the changes, she’s asking for fans to be understanding if positive results don’t start in the opening rounds.

    “This year, there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs,” she said.

    “Once I’ve done a few races I can set goals.

    “(Last year) shows you never know. I’m going into this year like an open book.

    “Right now, I really want to finish the year comfortable in the car so we can really fight for a high position in year two.”

    Unfortunately for de Silvestro, she might not get the patience she craves.

    Being a female driver in a male-dominated sport brings attention.

    It brings pressure and it brings expectation.

    She is eager to say she’s never felt discrimination because of her gender but she adds she’s not always been treated equally.

    “The biggest difference is, if a guy is quick, he’s considered quick,” she said.

    “As a woman, I always have to prove myself. I’ve felt that a lot.

    “I’ve never felt it from the drivers though because I’ve had results.

    “Yes, grid girls have before been the role of women in motorsport.

    “But that’s why I’m here. To change that.”

    De Silvestro credits the sport’s chief executive, James Warburton, for luring her to Australia.

    It was the Supercars supremo that helped to woo Nissan and Harvey Norman, her major sponsor, to back car No.78.

    To the Swiss star, it’s the first time someone with gravitas has talked the talk, and then walked the walk.

    “He’s the first one in any series that has said ‘I really want this’ and got sponsors on board to do it,” she said.

    “I’ve heard so many times ‘you have such a great story’ but nobody got behind it. This time someone has got behind it.

    “It’s really the first time I’m in a factory team and getting a proper chance.”

    For his part, Warburton believes De Silvestro deserves a grace period, comparing her to 2016 champion Mark Winterbottom.

    “Nobody’s shying away from the challenge she faces,” he told AAP.

    “It is a very close, very hard fought championship. Look at Frosty. It took him ten years to win his championship.

    “She’ll be driving all these tracks for the first time and she’ll need some time to come up to speed but she’s got the talent, there’s no doubt about it.”

    De Silvestro has proved her mettle time and again across four full seasons in IndyCar, including a breakout Indy 500 in 2011 when she earned the ‘Iron Maiden’ moniker.

    The 28-year-old flipped her car, sustaining second degree burns in a nasty crash before recovering to qualify for the race against all odds.

    She said she hoped to produce racing that would live up to her nickname by riding with the bumps from the rest of the grid.

    “I’m going to give it back,” she said.

    “That’s the biggest thing I have to get used to, the pushing. I have to think back to my go-karting days.

    “In fact I’m going to get one because I think they’ll be fun to drive and it will help,” she laughs.

    © AAP 2017