There’s not much this likeable Frenchman hasn’t driven during his extensive motorsport career. A race winner in French Formula 3 and International Formula 3000, Nicolás Minassian made a brief sojourn to IndyCars / CART in 2001 before turning his hand to endurance racing in the American and European Le Mans Series in the early 2000s. He’s finished 2nd at both Le Mans and Sebring during a five-year tenure with Peugeot, mastered oval racing to win the ASCAR series in 2002, and even gave V8 Supercars a go around Bathurst. He’ll also never be late for a qualifying session ever again…
“My name is Nicolás Minassian.”
Age? You can lie about that if you want…
“I am 46 years old.”
Where and when was your first ever car race, and how old were you?
“My first race was in Paul Ricard in go-karts, but my first ever car race was at Le Mans in 1992 in the [Renault] Clio Cup. I think I was 19 years old.”
What is the best moment of your racing career so far?
“I’ve got so many, y’know, so it’s difficult to pinpoint just one! Every time you get a race win or you do a good job in the car, it’s very rewarding. When you contribute as part of a team, like I am as Sporting Director with IDEC SPORT RACING, that’s a very good thing. But, okay, I will say the first time I drove the Williams Formula 1 car in 1997. That was a great car, or when I did the Indy 500 in 2001 [with Chip Ganassi Racing], that was very exciting and a great achievement because it’s a very hard race. Finishing 2nd at Le Mans [in 2008 with Peugeot] was a great result, because we really fought to win that, and even though we didn’t, it was still a great effort. I have many fond memories like that.”
Which is your favourite circuit and why?
“I think it’s Le Mans. Driving-wise it’s fantastic, it’s challenging, it still feels old fashioned, and you can only go there once a year. Because it’s difficult to get there, it makes you want to do it more and more.”
Describe the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a motor race …
“It’s more silly than strange, but one time, I forgot to go to a qualifying session.”
“Yeah! It was in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 1993, I think. I didn’t read the schedule very well, so I didn’t wake up, there were no mobile phones in those days, and I remember, when I finally got to the track, it looked like a session had just finished, and my team was looking at me in despair: ‘where the hell have you been?’ I made sure that never happened again.”
Describe your helmet design to us, and what it signifies…
“My helmet design is something I’ve used since the first time I drove a go-kart. It’s not been changed, only updated. I like the colours too – red, blue and orange – because these are the colours of the Armenian flag, and my name is Armenian. That’s a nice connection to my roots.”
What is your greatest strength?
“I like pressure. The more pressure, the better it is!”
If Hollywood made a movie about you, who would play you and why?
“I’ve never thought about that! I’d better find a nice looking one!” [Big pause] “I’ve always been very hungry during my career, a ‘never give up attitude’, so I’d like the movie to be about that. In terms of which actor…in France, there is a funny actor called Louis de Funès. He’s very good. The only problem is he’s been dead for 40 years!” [Another big pause] “Oh, hang on, Patrick Dempsey. He’s good looking, my wife fancies him and he knows about racing, so that’s perfect!”
What would you like to achieve before retiring?
“I don’t really have a goal, but I want to be better at what I do. So if I could run a team that one day is at the pinnacle of motorsport, that would be fantastic. If I can put together a team that’s capable of winning Le Mans, and we won Le Mans, I would have achieved what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Tell us a random fact about yourself that your fans might not know…
“There’s so many things, but I don’t want to tell them in case it costs me work! Maybe, underneath, I’m the same kind of person you’d find walking down the street. I don’t think of myself as better than anyone else. Whatever I’ve achieved, I always like to keep myself on the same level as everyone else. If a fan wants to talk to me, I’m more than happy to talk with them too.”
Finally, what do you enjoy most about competing in the 24H SERIES?
“I have to say to CREVENTIC, this is a great series. There hasn’t been a time where I haven’t enjoyed myself coming here. Everybody is so relaxed and open-minded. It’s a fun place to be but it’s still very competitive, so we get the best of both worlds. My hat’s off to CREVENTIC.”