New Supercars season full of firsts

Singer Delta Goodrem and stereotype-shattering driver Simona de Silvestro will spearhead a push to expand the appeal of Supercars.

Goodrem was unveiled as the sport’s new face at the season launch in Adelaide on Thursday, ahead of the season-opening Clipsal 500 next month.

It’s a startling new look for a series more associated with burnouts, grid girls and tinnies at the track or in front of the TV.

But to chief executive James Warburton, those are outdated notions.

“The strength of our sport is in its wide appeal,” he said.

“From white to blue collar, four to 84, surgeons to barristers and tradies to truckies … no sport in this country has such a broad and diverse base.

“As part of our growth strategy, we’re highlighting our commitment to bringing Australians the most entertaining sporting spectacle on offer.”

That spectacle includes the youngest full-time driver in the sport’s history and the first full-time female driver.

De Silvestro will race the No.78 Nissan Altima, backed by Harvey Norman, in the championship.

The Swiss racer has already taken to Australian motorsport in the Bathurst 1000 last year and is proud to break new ground – but eager to be judged on the same basis as her male colleagues.

“Gender doesn’t matter when you’re going 225 km/h into a turn,” she said.

Another of those colleagues, Alex Rullo, will need to be driven to each circuit.

The 16-year-old has joined Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport and will be the youngest man on the grid by some distance.

As part of other changes to the 2017 championship, a new SuperUtes format will debut in Townsville.

Entries have come from Mazda and Mitsubishi as well as traditional rivals Ford and Holden.

The second-tier Dunlop championship has been rebadged as the ‘Dunlop Super2 Series’, with drivers urged to commit to wildcard entries at the Bathurst 1000 to build a bigger field.

Despite Warburton’s best efforts, the 15-meet calendar will not include any Asian events in 2017.

The Kuala Lumpur meet originally mooted for 2016, as well as potential events in Indonesia and Thailand, are now hoped for 2018.

“Asia remains a priority as we look to grow beyond Australasia with our aim to have two permanent races in the region as part of our annual calendar,” Warburton said.

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