Supercar Championship | Simone de Silvestro | jesse dane | Triple Eight | Jamie Wincup

Supercars missed a huge opportunity in 2019 to reshape the way the sport is perceived, according to Jess Dane, co-owner of Triple Eight.

While Craig Lowndes retired as a full-time driver at the end of 2018, Triple Eight came days after signing Simona de Silvestro to replace her, in what would have been a groundbreaking move to put a woman in the front line seat .

Dane, who is an ambassador for the FIA’s Girls on Track programme, said de Silvestro’s abortive move to the Triple Eight would have changed the sport.

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“Simona unfortunately never had the opportunity to have the best equipment. It was a real shame,” she told Wide World of Sports.

“At Triple Eight we have been trying to raise the budget to run Simona in a third car for the 2019 season, alongside Jamie (Whincup) and Shane (van Gisbergen).

“Unfortunately, at the last minute, we lost a third of the budget, and you can’t find that kind of money in two days.

“We almost got there, but unfortunately it failed.”

De Silvestro spent three years as a full-time driver in the Supercars series, driving a Nissan Altima, with a best result of seventh in New Zealand in 2019. Prior to that, she had success in IndyCars, including a second-place finish in Houston. in 2013.

“She didn’t get a chance to perform at her best when she was in mediocre machines,” Dane explained.

“Certainly more could have been done to give her the chance to perform. If she had had that chance, who knows how the landscape would have changed.”

With de Silvestro’s Supercars race over, all 25 full-time seats are once again filled by men. Female participation never really took off, although women have competed in Bathurst since the 1960s.

Christine Gibson is remembered for her involvement in the accident that prematurely ended the 1981 Bathurst 1000, more importantly is the fact that she finished sixth that year.

Dane concedes that even though women have been part of the Mount Panorama grid for decades, it’s still seen as an oddity rather than the norm.

“It’s such a shame that women seem to have stagnated, and I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for that,” she explained.

“If we look at how motorsport has evolved over the years, it’s a huge budget.

“You can have the most talent in the world, there are so many drivers who didn’t get the opportunity because of the money.

“If you’re one of the top teams with five drivers for two seats, you’re going to pick the person with the most money and the least risk. And unfortunately women are still seen as the risky option.”

Female representation on the Formula 1 grid is even rarer, one of the reasons for the FIA’s creation of the W Series in 2019, aimed at creating opportunities for women in the single-seater categories.

But Dane admits the spell that befell his two-time champion, Jamie Chadwick, is proof that the W-series hasn’t quite established itself as a path to more established open-wheel series.

“I’m torn on the W series,” she said.

“On the one hand, it’s great that it provides a platform for women to get seat time, who would otherwise have a hard time finding a seat.

“Then we look at Jamie Chadwick, an extremely talented driver, she is part of the Williams Academy, she is now doing a third year in the W Series.

“The whole point of this series is to help women rise through the ranks. If Jamie can’t drive, you have to wonder if he’s doing his job.”

It’s one of the reasons Dane is so passionate about the Girls on Track program, which is designed to encourage girls to pursue a career in motorsport, even if it’s not behind the wheel.

“It’s a program for girls aged 8 to 18, it’s a global program and in Australia we’re actually expanding it to include those up to 22,” she explained.

“It’s to introduce girls to motorsport and show them that careers in motorsport are an option for them.

“We recently had a day out at Phillip Island where the girls learned about drag and aerodynamics using Lego cars, and took them on a tour of the Triple Eight garage, so they could learn about tires , computer screens and cars.

“It gives them a wide range of exposure to the different forms of careers available to them.

“At the Grand Prix weekend, it was for girls aged 15 to 22 who have a little more idea of ​​what they want to do, meet women who do what they might want to do and ask questions and hopefully have a mentor for the next few years as they find their feet.”

Dane said motorsport needs to be more aware of how the sport is presented, noting that there are already a large number of women in roles that are not necessarily high profile.

“It only really seems to be male-dominated because that’s what the visuals show,” she said.

“We have to be better as a sport to show that there are a lot of women working in sport. Of course there are more men than women, and unfortunately a lot of women are working in fields that you don’t see much on TV.

“When you watch a race, you see the drivers, the engineers and the pit crew, and they’re usually men. But there are so many women making things happen behind the scenes, from coordinating the team to media, to event management, there are so many options.

“It’s up to motorsport to do a better job of showcasing the women who are already involved in the industry.”

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