In this exclusive Q&A we chat racing in multiple series and what's next for this multi-talented young Canadian racer.
Toronto, Ontario - Earlier this year, Quebec born racer, Valérie Chiasson was chosen to be a representative of international racing governing body FIA's "Women in Motorsport" and it seems every time we hear from her, she's up to something bigger and better. Right now she's racing her first season in Porsche Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama and her second season with Nissan Micra Cup.
She's also the founder and CEO of her own marketing company that has seen work in both North America and Europe. We sat down with Valérie while she was in Toronto a few weeks ago to chat racing in two different series and what she's got coming up next.
Born in Repentigny, Quebec and living in Mont Tremblant, Valérie is only 27 years old. She has been racing for 14 of those years and has been running her own business since her early twenties.
Kanishka Sonnadara: Let’s dive right into the new series you’re in. What’s it like in GT3?
Valérie Chiasson: This year I’m racing in GT3 Cup Canada, but we have two races with GT3 US as well. For me it was a big step to go to GT3 but I’m very happy; I have the same sponsor, the Gabriel Group. I raced the Nissan Micra Cup last year and it’s the same group of dealerships, so for me it’s really nice opportunity to get into Porsche Cup. And I have to say, it’s a really amazing car to drive. It’s really fast, the performance is amazing for a GT [Grand Touring class car], I think it’s the most fun GT I’ve ever driven in my life. It’s completely different from any GT I’ve driven before. And I really appreciate IMSA [race sanctioning body], they run a really professional series.
KS: What’s it been like to work with IMSA and Porsche in this series?
VC: For me this is a direct step to professional racing. Because IMSA is owned by the same people who own NASCAR, a very big series, a lot of people are looking at you in Canada and USA when you’re racing. You also get to race some of the most beautiful tracks in North America. For me this is a step along the path to my dreams, my plan is to go international one day, I don’t know in which series, but Porsche is a good beginning.
KS: Tell me about your car.
VC: My car! So my car is a GT3 Cup 2014. I’m racing in Platinum, the biggest class in my series. I did the design by myself, with my manager. It’s really nice. I chose my own colours. This a great thing to know because usually people don’t do the design by themselves, by I did it myself. Actually it was a bit last minute (laughs), I have to say I enjoyed it though. My two principal sponsors are Porsche Prestige, a dealership from Montreal and Total Canada. I really appreciate the partnership with them. I also have Anibal Automotive, an international company from Montreal, they do skin changes on Porsche vehicles. And I have LPM sponsoring me as well, a small Quebec company that does great construction work.
VC: I’d like to add that my car and suit are custom with my colours, my signature, my brand. I rebranded this year, focusing more on the Valérie Chiasson brand with my image. Sometimes you join a racing team and you go with their branding, their colours, you don’t have a choice. This is the thing I’m doing differently from others, I bring my own sponsors, I race, so I get to have my own brand.
KS: Since you bring it up, let’s talk about your brand. What is the Valérie Chiasson brand?
VC: So the Valérie Chiasson brand is of a powerful woman. This is who I am. I do everything by passion, not because I have to do it, but because I love it. This is what it means, I think, to be a woman in motorsports. We do it because we have the passion for motorsports. This is why I was selected to represent women in motorsports by FIA this year for Canada. I want to invest more of my time in racing, motorsports and help young women to introduce them to racing; be it mechanics, team managers or racers. My brand is about empowerment, I want to empower women.
KS: You’re the first female driver racing full-season in an IMSA sanctioned single-make championship. What does this mean for you?
VC: I didn’t actually know this going in. But it’s a good step for women, to be able to say, hey, you’re able to go there and compete. This is a very competitive series, one of the most competitive in North America. And the Canadians! We’re really fast. Take for example when we were at Watkins Glen, with the Americans, there were maybe 40 cars, and the top six? All Canadian. The Canadians are really strong right now in Porsche GT3 Cup. Part of why I’m doing this series is to learn. It’s the best school. A lot of very professional race car drivers and they’re very fast. It’s the best way to learn.
KS: Quick question, Porsche GT3 Cup car or Micra Cup car?
VC: It’s not a question, is it! (laughing) Wait, I’m supposed to answer that...
VC: For sure my Porsche. I’m continuing to race Micra Cup this year, I’m doing six races. I really appreciate racing my Micra, but it’s different, it’s completely different. For me, to drive the Porsche is like a dream, so I’d choose the Porsche.
VC: To add to that though, for pro racing I prefer the Porsche. But sometimes I miss racing Micra Cup, it’s a big crowd, a bigger field [of competitors]. It’s just very different racing experiences.
KS: What does the rest of your year look like?
VC: I'm racing at Grand Prix Trois-Rivières this weekend. And maybe I’ll race rallycross this year. I have an opportunity, nothing’s confirmed yet, but maybe, I have my fingers crossed. I’ve been dreaming about doing rallycross for a couple years now, because when I was young I raced on ice. Yea, it’s different, and I have to try. It will be rallycross [FIA World Rallycross], but it will be RX light. It’s the series before pro, the one with Sebastien Loeb and Ken Block. It’ll still be a very competitive car with more than 400 horsepower, it’s crazy and it’ll be amazing, with jumps while racing on both asphalt and dirt. I really cross my fingers here because it’s not done yet, I am continuing my search for a sponsor for this one event.
KS: So one race?
VC: Yes, it’ll be one race. The world championship.
KS: Looking forward to next year, what’s on your plate?
VC: My plan for next year… I’ll continue to do my reality show. We’re filming now. Everybody will see teasers real soon on my social media. It’s been very interesting working on it this year, and I’d like to do it next year as well. It’s in both French and English, so everyone can see it. I’d also like to return to racing with Porsche. I don’t know where yet. This year I’m in Porsche to learn and I’d like to come back stronger next year.