IZOD IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro challenged the back of the field today at the Milwaukee Mile during qualification for tomorrow's Milwaukee IndyFest. The Swiss pilot of the #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car was less than a five-tenths of a second behind Charlie Kimball who qualified 21st and even closer to Oriol Servia's and Ed Carpenter's qualifying times.
The team has struggled all season with horsepower issues and is extremely excited to be gaining ground on the other engine manufacturers. HVM Racing is the lone remaining team running the Lotus engine and has been at a disadvantage early on due to the manufacturer's late arrival to the series. De Silvestro and the team have managed to keep competitive on road and street courses, but have had difficulties staying competitive on ovals.
De Silvestro was pleased with today's result. "I'm pretty happy to have out-qualified someone," she said. "I think we have a really good race car. We worked a lot and I think it's pretty impressive because we didn't come here and test. So I'm happy about that. We're just working on a good basic for tomorrow. Maybe we can get off-strategy a little bit so we can move forward and then I think we can run there. I don't think we'll be able to pass anyone, but I think we can definitely run with people and stay with people, so that's the important thing."
Today's performance offers De Silvestro, the team, the manufacturer and the sponsors a glimpse of a more competitive second half of the season.
Tom Brown, Lotus HVM Racing's technical director was proud of the effort given by the entire team. "I'm very, very impressed with Sim and the guys for putting this car together the way they did and engineering it," he said. "No testing, just turning up and spending an hour, hour and a half, and putting it as close as we did to some of these guys ahead of us. Given our situation, where we are, we're doing a heck of a job."
Team Manager Shane Seneviratne summed up the day. "We had a really good car," he said. "Our lap times are very close. With the deficiency we have with the horsepower I think the team is quite pleased to be competitive."
Tomorrow's Milwaukee IndyFest airs on ABC with coverage starting at noon Eastern.