A Frenchman in the NASCAR Circuit, not seen since 1979
A Frenchman in the NASCAR Circuit, not seen since 1979
e-Toile: Hello, Michael Disdier, how are you? In your business card, you present yourself as “The Frenchman in NASCAR”! Where does this nickname come from? Do English speaking people as well as French speaking people call you by this name?
• Michel Disdier: I really do not know where this nickname came from. I think it came after my first visit to a NASCAR racetrack where there were several journalists for NASCAR.COM, and one of them wrote an article about my presence and nicknamed me that. After my first race in NASCAR in Canada, I used the nickname “a Frenchman in NASCAR” to introduce myself to the media and fans it since then it stuck!
The nickname was easy to remember because at the time I was the only Frenchman in the national series. Today, my Facebook’s title is “afrenchmaninNascar” and the fans in Europe and France know me more by my nickname than my real name and I must admit that I find it wonderful!
e-toile: In one of your previous interviews, you stated that you started racing at the age of 14, a really young age to get behind the wheel! Moreover, how did you manage to get involved in racing and what roads where the ones that led you to Daytona Beach, to participate in NASCAR which is known to be one of the most prestigious races?
• Michel Disdier: There must be an error because I first got involved in racing when I was 17 years old and participated in my first race when I was 18 years old. Before that however, I took the title of Championship of France in endurance in Motocross and the following year I started practicing with race cars before finding the means to participate in France’s Championship of French Formula in 1993, where I participated in 4 races before I was forced to stop due to the lack of means.
Let me just summarize my journey for you: After many seasons in France and Europe, being a race car driver who did not come from a family that was involved in the sport and had no means to help me with it, I realized that my future did not look so bright.
I was always stopped short by the lack of money and the other drivers that raced alongside me because they had better contacts, where the sons of previous drivers or had Kart raced. Naturally, I started to interest myself in foreign races and I found NASCAR to be the closest race that resembled formula one racing. It is true that I have always liked the United States.
I always kept good memories of the time when I was 14 years old and I came to do a language course in the fief of NASCAR in Charlotte, North Carolina. Finally, in the early 2000s, I made my first contacts with recruiting managers of NASCAR and I felt right away that they were interested in having a foreign driver race for them.
However, in France and in Europe I was told I was crazy by other professionals and managers because according to them, they would never hire a foreign driver. Luckily I followed my intuition and the road to my dreams.
e-toile: You have already visited Florida many times. In 2007 you were here and most recently in December of 2012 to start preparing for the 2013 NASCAR season that will begin on February 16. Would you be able to tell us the details of this race and the conditions in which you will race?
• Michel Disdier: To be able to be here in Daytona is a dream for many drivers around the world, and to be able to finally have the opportunity to race, is for those who have been beside me all along, a reward for all the hard work we have put throughout the years. This race is a particular challenge because it is going to take place in the world’s biggest stadium which holds 256,000 spectators.
In the race track, speed is an essential element and we drivers have to remain alert for this challenge that may last up to several hours. In our final practice rounds in December, my team and I came in 9th place out of 61st possible places. It had been many years since I had raced in a circular track and thanks to the support of my team which had a reputation for being one of the best teams out there I was able to perform well.
Today we are confident that we are going to do a good job in the February race, keeping in mind that the most important thing is to finish this legendary challenge. During the race, I will keep in mind Claude Ballot Léna, the last Frenchman to have participated in 1979 in an Oldsmobile.
e-toile: Surprisingly, NASCAR is the 2nd most seen sport in the United States, displacing both basketball and baseball by having 100,000 live spectators and 800,000 viewers! Accordingly, you invite both businesses and individuals to embark upon this great journey with you. What are some of the benefits that doing this provides?
• Michel Disdier: you are right. NASCAR is not only the 2nd most seen sport in the United States, but it is also a sport that is gaining more and more popularity around the world, notably in France and Europe where the races are televised live in several channels. After having begun my adventure in this sport, I realized that it had surpassed borders because I started to receive support from France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Canada where the number of fans is growing each year.
My advantage and what makes me stand out from the rest is that I am the only French person to be involved in NASCAR, which in turn creates a certain sense of awareness and interest which allows my fans to identify me quickly.
This also creates an advantage for any company or business that wants to endorse or sponsor this sport because they will make themselves known. Accordingly, our profession attracts the media and fans which makes us work that much harder and it turn benefits our sponsors and partners because they are able to create an image. This relationship is reinforced each time as we perform in more and more races.
e-toile: Perhaps, you would like take this opportunity to invite our readers including those in the French community to follow you?
• For my team and me, what we want most is to be able to share this adventure with the most number of people possible. We would be extremely happy to be able to meet several French citizens in all the regions we are going to be and have them come to our races.
Like them, we are living the American Dream in this country that has opened so many doors for us and that has given us the means to realize projects as wonderful as ours.
We would be please to have them attend the race in Daytona and would like tell them not to hesitate to contact us directly if they would like to meet with us directly.
Contact/ Media - Sponsors Christopher Bourgeois Lafayette Racing +33 6 63 53 22 23 Chris@LafayetteRacing.com
Article published on January 18th, 2013.