IDEC Sport’s Racing Director, Nicolas Minassian, filled us in on life after an impressive professional driving career. The 46-year-old has 17 Le Mans 24 Hour campaigns behind him, most notably two podiums with the factory Peugeot 908s. Minassian was also recently appointed as Series Director for the Masters Historic Endurance Series, which has already showcased some much-loved machinery at some iconic circuits.
“Life is much busier now! I think that as a [retiring] driver you have to realise that a change has to happen and when it does, the busier you are the better because you really miss [the driving]. I think you have to use what you have learned and find another way to use that experience and also to share it.
“I have a very broad role in the team, I am involved at the base of the team, at the factory, but I also work with the drivers, looking for performance, also with the engineers and mechanics. I am also deeply involved with the regulations and understanding them and how to get the best out of them. So yes, I am the link with the sporting side of things whilst others look at the future direction of the team.”
As to race week at Le Mans, Nicolas was showing his typical focus, despite the breadth of his role.
“My focus is now entirely on this race. We have done so much work to get here. Our approach has been to use Wednesday to see if we are competitive. We usually are, so I thought that we would be here too. I thought that as long as we are not far off, we can have the opportunity to put a lap together. That is what happened and I think we could have got P1 [in qualifying] but we couldn’t quite put it together. We will start P4 so that is good.
“What is really good is that Memo [Rojas], Paul-Loup [Chatin] and Paul [Lafargue] have all lapped on all of the different tyres and they have all had a smile on their face.
“They are enjoying their driving. At Le Mans especially, if you are not enjoying your driving, you are doing your head in and you won’t perform. Part of my role with the drivers is make sure the drivers do not take everything too seriously and that they have some fun! Drivers have to ask themselves why they are here. When they first of all started racing it was because of a passion. So now they are here, they should be happy.
“I think if they realise it [and think like that] it means a lot and makes a big difference.”
Minassian has tasted many personal highs and lows at Le Mans, so his sanguine attitude is well-founded. He knows that to win is more than about the performance of his team.
“This is a field of great drivers and great teams. The cars are also well known by the teams, so it will be tough. I respect the opposition but I think I know what is going to happen. We will see if it does…”
We asked what one piece of advice, if he was so limited, he would give to his drivers to maximise their chances this weekend. Often we have heard teams talking of focussing on making it through the night; deciding on a final strategy depending on how things look in the final ‘x’ hours; running as close as possible to a pre-set pace or variations on those themes. Nicolas’s answer was however refreshingly simple:
“Drive as fast as you can without crashing the car. You have to be quick but you absolutely cannot have a crash. There are times to take risk and there are times not to… But I would also have to say ‘enjoy yourself’!”