Simona & KV Bring Some Welcomed Relief

Mercifully, there was some on-track racing news to report to give us a slight distraction and reprieve from all the insanity that has been transpiring behind the scenes in the IZOD IndyCar Series. As more and more comes out on Randy Bernard’s departure, I’ll discuss it here. In the meantime, I’d like to take a break from the madness and talk about something happening on the track. KV Racing Technology announced earlier this week that Simona de Silvestro would be joining their team in a second car, teaming with their only other driver Tony Kanaan.

This is big in a lot of ways. First, it gives Tony Kanaan a teammate. Word has it that he wasn’t relishing the thought of being on a single-car team. Having no teammate to share data and setups with is a major hindrance when most of your toughest competition have two, three and four cars to gather data from.

More importantly, it gives us all a chance to see what Simona de Silvestro can do with decent equipment. For her first two years in the series, Simona was saddled with old equipment and bad luck on a team with a miniscule budget. I say bad luck because in her first two seasons, her primary car which was newer, was destroyed in the early stages of each season. Her cash-strapped team was forced to put her in the older and heavier “Pork Chop”, which was doing good just to stay out of everyone’s way.

Last season was a disaster. Her team for three years, HVM Racing, was one of the first to announce they would run the Lotus engine. While many suspected early in the offseason that Lotus would probably be slower than the new Honda and Chevy engines, I don’t think many expected it would be as slow and unreliable as it turned out to be. At the beginning of the season, there were five Lotus-powered cars on the grid. By the time the series got to Indianapolis for only the fifth race of the season, all but one team had left the woeful Lotus camp. The one full-time Lotus car remaining on the grid was? You guessed it – Simona de Silvestro in her HVM DW-12. She was joined in the very back of the field at Indianapolis by Jean Alesi, in another Lotus entry. They were both parked by Lap 10.

Saddled with the Lotus for the season, Simona plodded along to finish the 2012 campaign twenty-fourth; dead-last among all full time drivers. Her best finishes for the season included a fourteenth place at Iowa and a seventeenth place finish at Sonoma. Otherwise, she finished twentieth or worse in every race in 2012.

Did she ever complain? No. She put her head down and went to work every week trying to make something out of the sorry set of circumstances she had been handed. Most of all – she kept her mouth shut and never complained. Although you could tell it was forced, she was rarely seen without a smile. Her car was rarely seen on television and she was forgotten about by some, but not true race fans – we all took note of her perseverance.

Fortunately, she wasn’t forgotten about in the paddock. We always hoped that some prominent owner would notice her talents and rescue her from the professional quicksand that had been holding her back. A strange set of circumstances unfolded at the end of the season at KV Racing Technology to create an opening. I am not privy to information on how it all unfolded; but what started out as a possible merger between KV and HVM ended up being Simona joining KV directly and bringing her sponsor with her.

Although it definitely creates an uncertain situation at HVM, I’m glad it worked out the way it did. It gives Simona a clean break from her past. Her best year at HVM was her first, when she finished nineteenth in 2010. She followed that up with a twentieth place finish in 2011 before the disastrous season this year.

We fans have always felt that Simona was much better than her results showed. She was strapped with one of the most underfunded teams in the paddock. She showed loyalty to HVM almost to a fault. She never whined, never complained and never threw her crew under the bus (I really don’t like that term – it makes no sense). Since she joined the series, fans have wondered what she might do in better equipment. Hopefully, we’ll get to find out.

That’s not certain, because KV Racing Technology has had their own issues. Since they joined the series through the unification of 2008, KV may be the most underachieving team on the grid. It has been frustrating being a KV fan. I’ve never hidden the fact that Tony Kanaan is one of my favorites in this crop of current drivers. On paper, this team should have won some races by now. They have the budget and the personnel to be running up front consistently. For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. I’ve suspected lack of focus at the top for some time and still believe that to be the case. In the last several weeks, KV Racing Technology has been dismantled and some of the pieces have been put back in place, while others have been permanently discarded. I am hoping that this painful procedure will produce a leaner and more efficient organization intent on winning races, than what we’ve seen in the past.

If that’s the case, then I fully expect to see Tony Kanaan return to victory lane after a three year absence. I also have much higher expectations for Simona de Silvestro. She has shown us the ability to get more out of a car than what is there. To me, that’s the sign of a true racer. Any driver can drive a car when it’s good. How do they do when it’s not good. That’s what Simona has shown us.

But now it’s a different game. The pressure will be increased. No one expected anything out of her at HVM. When she was able to wring anything out of her car there, we all took notice. Now she’s headed to a team that has most things in place for results to come much easier. If she doesn’t produce with a much better car under her, the whispers will start.

But I expect her to answer the bell and have a breakout season. Simona has never had a teammate. In Kanaan, she’ll get one that has demonstrated how unselfish he is in the past. I think this move will be good for both of them.

But the real winner will be KV Racing Technology. Suddenly, they will be one of the most popular teams on the grid, with their two drivers being two of the most popular with fans. If the team and both drivers can live up to their potential – it could be a very good year for a group that has experienced some lean times recently. I wish them well.

George Phillips

Shameless Plug: For some unknown reason, the good folks at sought out my opinion on the Randy Bernard firing. It’s about thirty minutes of my ramblings on the entire situation. You can listen to it here. – GP


5 Responses to “Simona & KV Bring Some Welcomed Relief”

  1. HVM is going P2 racing in the WEC and possibly LMPC racing in the ALMS. So far, no decision or announcement has been made about chassis/engine for the P2 effort.

  2. OrdinaryRaceFan Says:

    “Saddled with the Lotus for the season, Simona plodded along to finish the 2012 campaign twenty-fourth; dead-last among all full time drivers. Her best finishes for the season included a fourteenth place at Iowa and a seventeenth place finish at Sonoma. Otherwise, she finished twentieth or worse in every race in 2012.”

    You forgot her 13th place at Detroit – arguably her best race in 2012.

  3. Carburetor Says:

    When I first read your headline, my first thought was the old Far Side comic panel where the replica ship inside the fish bowl had caught fire and the two gold fish jumped out of the bowl to safety (albeit out of the water) wherein one fish says to the other “of course we’re still screwed.” However as disappointing as KV Racing has been the past few years, they have at times been very fast–something Simona could not even hope for last year with her over-grown lawnmower engine. And teaming with Tony K has got to be a huge boost for her because he has proven his worth as a teammate. In fact, I think Tony K would be a good team owner/manager one day….

    Assuming the fuzzy heads running the series don’t kill it, it will be exciting to see how Simona fares–possibly her best chance at a podium that she’s had since joining Indy Car!

  4. I just don’t care about this story, or any on track story. The events off the track have just about sucked the IndyCar life out of me. Maybe that changes in March or May, but right now I hate IndyCar.

  5. George, your column is a welcome read for me. Simona won me as a fan at the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 with her grit and gutsy performance. I think that KV made a smart move with hiring this race car driver!!!

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