Many drivers wonder what to do once they hang up their helmets. Not Nicolas Minassian. “I’ve always wanted to have my own team. All my family are mechanics, although not necessarily in the automotive business, so I grew up with that. As a driver, I was always questioning the engineers and mechanics. I like to understand and learn, which helps a lot with what I’m doing now."
With two cars in the European Le Mans Series, a sporting director has to know how to keep several plates spinning. “There’s a lot to do in a small team. You have to know the rulebook by heart, coach your drivers, hire the right people to be in the right place, as well as draw up race tactics. The most important thing is to create a good atmosphere and enjoy work. It’s much easier to be a driver!"
But drivers have all the stress. “Yes, but adrenaline is good. When I used to see the crowds in the grandstands at the start, it fired me up. I felt invincible. I felt part of a show. Throughout my career, every time I took the wheel, I would say to myself that it might be the last time, so I would make the most of it."
The former Peugeot works driver certainly achieved what many only dream of: mounting the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was second overall in 2008 and third in 2011. Did that make retiring all the more difficult? “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss racing. I still get in the Oreca for tests and to be honest, I realise what I’m doing has its uses. At the start of the race I have less pressure these days. If I’m completely in the moment then, it means I’ve done my job well."
Minassian admits to being a bag of energy, and meticulous to boot. “I pay great attention to detail because a race can be won or lost by a hair’s breadth. As a former driver, I know that. I remember everything about the races I’ve run and I try to put all that to good use, because whether you’re at the wheel or on the wall, the aim of the game is the same: to win.”
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PHOTO - LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES DU MANS, TEST DAY, SUNDAY 2 JUNE 2019: Nicolas Minassian, sporting director of IDEC Sport at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day.