A tough road always lay ahead in 2017 for Simona de Silvestro, the first full-time female Supercars driver in 32 years.
But six-time Bathurst 1000 podium finisher Cameron McConville has spelled out exactly how steep he believes the learning curve will be for the former Formula One test driver in her rookie year.
“It’s going to be a tough induction,” McConville told speedcafe website.
“There’s no sugar coating it.
“If she can finish most, or all, of her races, keep her nose clean and get some top 20 finishes that will be a massive pass mark.”
All eyes will be on 28-year-old Swiss driver de Silvestro next year when she becomes the first female full-time touring car driver since Christine Gibson in 1975.
And she will be the first woman to compete fulltime in Supercars since the category began in 1997.
De Silvestro earned the full-time gig after two stints at the Bathurst 1000 as a wildcard entry with co-driver Renee Gracie.
Their best finish was an impressive 14th this year.
They appeared to silence their critics by staying out of trouble at an incident-packed Bathurst that included six safety cars and eight teams failing to finish.
But McConville needed more convincing.
De Silvestro’s resume may be impressive – she is one of only three women to earn an IndyCar podium.
But McConville believed all her international experience would count for little on a Supercars circuit in which she is familiar with just two of the 15 tracks – Bathurst and test venue Winton.
“It’s great for the sport but she is going to be measured by how she stacks up,” he said.
“She was a solid driver in IndyCar and had a short stint in Formula E but that is all single seater.
“Very little of that will transition into driving a V8 car.”
De Silvestro’s progress will be tracked meticulously with Supercars boss James Warburton aiming for three women driving full-time by 2025.
But McConville hoped critics would cut de Silvestro some slack in 2017.
“What she did at Bathurst was great and her lap times were solid,” he said.
“They certainly weren’t top 10 times but they weren’t disgraceful.
“But next year people need to back off and not expect too much of her.
“There’s no doubt she will find it hard to break into the top 20.
“I think we need to measure her in year two.”