The Australian Supercars Championship will have a female driver racing in the series full-time next year after confirming today that former IndyCar Series and Formula E racer Simona de Silvestro has inked a three-year deal with the category.

Championship organisers today announced de Silvestro’s full-time appointment, along with confirmation that the Harvey Norman Supergirls Bathurst 1000 wildcard entry – which she will co-drive with Renee Gracie for a second time – will move to Nissan Motorsport for this year’s ‘Great Race’.

The Australian Supercars Championship had announced earlier this year that it would co-fund a full-time entry for a high-calibre female racing driver in 2017, and has made little secret of its courting of de Silvestro, considered one of the best women racers in the modern era.

Retail giant Harvey Norman, which already sponsors the Supergirls entry, will provide financial backing alongside the South Australian state government.

“This is an exciting announcement for the sport and a major coup for Supercars,” said the category’s CEO James Warburton.

“We said we wanted to have a full-time female driver in our championship and in Simona we have secured a world class driver. Along with Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher she is one of only three female drivers to have stood on the podium in IndyCar and she will be a brilliant addition to Supercars.

“I want to thank Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page for their support of the Harvey Norman Supergirls and the South Australian Government for its support in making this happen.

“There will be great anticipation when Simona lines up on the grid at Clipsal 500 Adelaide next March.

“What is really exciting is that she has committed to three years which gives her a great opportunity to make her mark in the sport.”

Having impressed from the off in her wilcard outing at Bathurst last year in unfamiliar machinery and at a circuit she’d never visited, 28-year-old de Silvestro is under no illusions that her full-time venture will be a tough baptism where little quarter will be given.

“I had my first taste of driving these cars last year at the Bathurst 1000,” she said.

“It was such an incredible experience and I knew this could be a goal for the future. That this goal became reality so quickly is fantastic and I have to thank James Warburton for believing in me and wanting me in Supercars.

“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. I am very respectful towards this new challenge but at the same time I am very excited about driving in such a competitive championship.

“I can’t wait to jump in the car to work towards getting the most out of these cars.”

The switch to a Nissan Motorsport-run entry is seen as a sweetener in the Supercars attempts to get the Japanese carmaker to extend its manufacturer presence in the championship beyond 2016, following Holden’s confirmation that it will remain for a further three years.

While it is expected that the 28-year-old Swiss will continue with Nissan in 2017, the Supercars statement did not confirm which team she would race with next year.

Image via Edge Photographics

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Geoff Burke

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