Swiss racer De Silvestro into Indy 500 with female-led team

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Washington (AFP)

A new women-operated IndyCar race team aimed at greater gender equity in the sport was announced on Tuesday with Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro entered in the 2021 Indianapolis 500.

Paretta Autosport, led by automotive and motorsports executive Beth Paretta, will field a Chevrolet-powered number 16 entry for the May 30 race with technical support from Roger Penske Racing, the veteran team run by the series owner.

"Today is the beginning of a commitment to gender equity in sport, to encourage women to work hard so they can earn their seat at the table or spot on the grid," Paretta said.

"IndyCar has been a leader and a welcoming place for women for many years because of the hard work of many women and men before us, but now we have a stronger commitment... to make sure opportunities continue in the future."

De Silvestro, 32, was the 2010 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and has made five starts at the famed 2 1/2-mile (4km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval with her best finish at 14th in her debut. In 69 career IndyCar races from 2010-2015 her only podium effort was a runner-up showing at Houston in 2013.

She also raced Australian Supercars, as a Formula One development driver and last year as a factory driver for Porsche.

"I am very excited to have this incredible opportunity to return to Indianapolis and the Indy 500 with Paretta Autosport this year," De Silvestro said. "My career really took off through my time competing in IndyCar and the Indy 500.

"Being part of the goal of diversity and inclusion for everyone, and especially women in IndyCar and in motorsports in general, is very important to me and how I would like to see the future of racing."

Paretta will provide opportunities for women in competitive roles as well as operations and administrative jobs such as logistics, marketing and public relations.

"The Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world and one day soon we hope to have a woman's face on the Borg-Warner Trophy," Paretta said.

Paretta has been an executive at Street and Racing Technology and at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, where she was the first female director to lead a performance brand and motorsports for an original equipment manufacturer.