De Silvestro’s Career Going Nuclear

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 26 2011

Simona de Silvestro has a new deal and stable future with Keith Wiggins' HVM IZOD IndyCar Series team. (File photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Simona de Silvestro’s future in the IZOD IndyCar Series is set for the next three seasons, theoretically at a pace that promises to be nuclear.

Keith Wiggins’ HVM Racing and Entergy Nuclear have entered into a three-year partnership as primary sponsor for de Silvestro, the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

“It’s a really special feeling, and I’m excited for 2011,” de Silvestro said during a teleconference. “It’s the first time in my career that I know I will be able to race not only this year, but for the next couple of years. We have a great partnership with Entergy and I’m glad they are coming aboard.”

Wiggins and John Herron, president/CEO and chief nuclear officer at Entergy, unveiled de Silvestro’s No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy Dallara/Honda at the InterContinental hotel in downtown Baltimore. De Silvestro also got in some extra pit stop practice on a portion of the circuit that will play host to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix in September.

Wiggins and Herron were joined by Imran Safiulla, a partner in HVM Racing, and Kelle Barfield, director of nuclear communication, Entergy.

“As a driver, usually during the winter, you’re not really sure what’s going to happen,” said de Silvestro, a 22-year-old native of Thun, Switzerland. “And they (Entergy) have given me this great opportunity to be competing a second year, and a couple of more years in the IZOD IndyCar Series. My first year was pretty good, and with such a partner behind us this year for this season, I think it’s going to be even better.”

De Silvestro finished 19th in points among 40 drivers competing in the series last year, recording top-10 results on the Streets of Toronto (ninth) and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (eighth). She led four

Simona de Silvestro has reason to smile.

laps in the season-opener on the Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, becoming the first rookie to lead in his/her series debut since Graham Rahal at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2008. HVM will be entering its fourth season in the IndyCar Series in 2011 as a single-car operation.

“Any successful race team needs good partners,” said Wiggins, who purchased the former Bettenhausen Motorsports in 2001. “And we have had great partners in the past and we have done some exciting things with them. Last year, getting ourselves established, we discovered and saw the potential in Simona and we all were behind it and believed in her. And now we found a partner that believes in what we can deliver with Simona. It gives us the stability to get back to doing a good marketing program, which we very much enjoy, and we are totally in-tune with Entergy and where we want to go with this.

“Leading on from that, it gives us as a team the reassurance as Simona mentioned, knowing where we are going for the next couple of years and the planning that allows us to do on the technical perspective, and just getting ourselves organized and building. We know we can do it.”

Entergy is in the fourth year of its “Nuclear Clean Air Energy” national education campaign. Entergy received its first series exposure with HVM Racing during the 2010 Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where de Silvestro was voted the event’s top rookie after a full-distance, 14th-place finish. The company also sponsored de Silvestro when she won her first Atlantic Championship race in 2008.

In addition to education and public awareness, the campaign assists in recruiting quality engineers

Simona de Silvestro has a big new deal with HVM. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

and professionals into the nuclear energy sector, a cutting-edge job-growth industry. “It’s an important time for our country to hear our nuclear clean air energy story,” Herron said. “With Simona as a lead spokesperson for our effort, teaming up with HVM and IndyCar brings visibility to the issue of U.S. energy policy, with multiple national opportunities to reach out to families and fans.

“Having ‘nuclear’ on the side of a race car is as all-American as racing itself, since nuclear energy generates 20 percent of all U.S. electricity already.”

Wiggins said Michael Cannon would remain as chief engineer of a team that largely has remained intact this offseason. “We are focusing on a new car for Simona and getting organized,” Wiggins said. “We will be testing toward the end of March. In the meantime, we’ll just be preparing for that.”

De Silvestro said she has been working on her fitness this offseason, as well as reviewing tapes from last year. “Yeah, I’ve been in the gym a couple of hours every day and really focused on that and also spent a lot of time with the team,” said de Silvestro, a resident of Scottsdale, Ariz. “We worked on things we didn’t do really well last year and things we can do better.

“And we are preparing for testing, too. The first test, I think it’s going to be at Sebring (International  Raceway), and we have a couple of things we want to do better for the street courses. I think that’s going to be the focus for the first two days there.

“Last year, we showed that we were running quite well on the road courses. I have learned from my mistakes and I’m going to try to do less of them this year, and I think we have a good chance to be really up-front, especially on the road courses. And I’m really looking forward for the Indy 500. I’ve experienced it and it’s such an overwhelming race to be a part of. You have a little bit of confidence because I have finished my first 500-mile race last year and we went quite well.”

Major safety improvements, including new track infrastructure, are planned by promoter Green Savoree Toronto for the 1.75-mile Honda Indy Toronto street course. The campaign, which has

The track used for the Toronto race is due to get a makeover.

received financial support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), will be 40 percent complete at the end of the month.

The Canadian government has committed up to $772,000 specifically for the track enhancement project. The track’s walls and fencing will be redesigned to meet FIA specifications for height, thickness and weight, leading to a safer environment for drivers, fans and race officials as well as to the protection of jobs in the region.

“Safety for drivers, teams and race fans is our top priority,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner of Green Savoree Toronto, ULC. “This investment, which coincides with the 25th year of racing on the streets of Toronto, is essential to ensuring that we remain among the top venues in international motorsport.”

Toronto’s  James Hinchcliffe, who tested a Newman/Haas Racing IndyCar for the second time late last week at Sebring International Raceway, has been named Canadian Racer of the Year by

Jame Hinchcliff an offseason winner.

readers of “Inside Track Motorsport News.”

Hinchcliffe, 24, was the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship runnerup for Team Moore Racing. He recorded three victories, four poles and 10 top-five finishes in 13 events.

Hinchcliffe recently recorded 130 laps in a NHR Dallara/Honda on the 1.56-mile Sebring circuit. “We had another solid couple of days down in Florida,” Hinchcliffe said. “Part of it was furthering my development and getting me as up-to-speed and prepared for the start of the IndyCar season with the intention of being there. I think the team was happy and that’s ultimately my goal as I’d certainly like them to keep me in the car.”

A distinguished list of 732 drivers have competed in the Indianapolis 500 since the inaugural event in 1911. From mid-March until early May, “The Greatest 33” fan interaction platform will give fans around the globe an opportunity to pick their all-time starting lineup of 33 drivers for the Indianapolis 500 online at thegreatest33.com. The top 33 drivers will be announced in early May.

Fans can register now for early admission to the site before driver selection opens officially in mid-March. The site currently provides a video glimpse of some of the most historic highlights in Indy 500 history. Fans will choose their Greatest 33 grid from a list of 100 drivers pre-selected by a panel of international motorsports media. Images, statistics and audio from IMS historian Donald Davidson will be available for each of the 100 candidates.

Arizona resident Addison Brown was the winning bidder during the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction Saturday for the special-edition Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible that will serve as Official Pace Car for the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Brown, of Scottsdale, Ariz., will have the opportunity to drive the car during a parade lap in front of the field of 33 starters shortly before the green flag flies for the 100th anniversary edition of “The Most Important Race in History” on May 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chevrolet donated Brown’s winning bid of $225,000 to the David Foster Foundation, a charity devoted to supporting families with children in need of life-saving organ transplants.

The 2011 convertible is the 22nd Chevrolet, and seventh Camaro, chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the race, as well as Chevrolet’s centennial.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 26 2011
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